Mark Bell directs the UK premiere of Scooter Pietsch’s hilarious and chaotic US comedy Windfall, opening at Southwark Playhouse.
Pushed to the edge by their maniacal boss, five downtrodden office workers decide to risk it all on a $500million lottery ticket in the hope of a better life. Co-workers become accomplices, lovers become rivals, and friends become enemies as the prospect of winning brings out the very worst in everyone. Just how far will they go to have it all?
Mark Bell is best known for directing two of the biggest West End comedy hits of recent years, The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. His most recent show Cluedo, a new comedy based on the 1985 film ‘Clue’, toured the UK in 2022.
Windfall previews at Southwark Playhouse from Thursday 9 February, with a press night on 14 February, and runs for five weeks to Saturday 11 March.
You’re directing Windfall at Southwark Playhouse, how would you describe the show?
It starts as a cross between ‘Glengarry Glenross’ and the American ‘The Office’ and then morphs into the love child of ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Deliverance’. So just plain old fashioned fun.
What was it about Scooter Pietsch’s script that really stood out for you?
The violence. Also the character of Glenn the boss, who takes rudeness and misanthropy to a whole new level. Boy I want to play that part… But mainly the violence.
We’d all love a big lottery win, how else do you think the show will resonate with audiences?
Anyone who’s worked in a job in which they both feel dissatisfied and trapped will completely understand this world. And also why the characters act the way they do when a possible escape from their hideously mind-numbing prison is offered. And they are all recognisable people that we probably all worked with at some point, perhaps even liked. But not that much.
What do you enjoy about directing comedy, and what’s the biggest challenge with the genre?
I love working on the characters. We always do a lot of improvisation around the world of the play and who these people are. But also I like the actors to step out of what is ordinary or usual and go to the extremes of human experience. And the extreme stupidity! So in other words put the characters in the most extreme situations imaginable and see how daft they can get.
That fits perfectly with ‘Windfall’ because the characters do you start off in a mundane office situation, but end up somewhere very very far out of their comfort zone. The biggest challenge for me is, having found the characters, working on the precision of where the laughs are – and also, with a show that includes quite a lot of violence, making sure that is both safe and effective on stage.
Tell us a little about the cast and what you’re enjoying about working with them?
I have worked with all six of the actors before in some form or other, and I cast them in this play because I needed people who could play, have fun and also know how to do the hard work that it takes to put on a comedy like this.
They are all wonderful people to have in the room and we’ve laughed a lot making this show. But THE most important thing is that they’re not afraid to make complete fools of themselves. Mistakes are where we find a lot of our best material, so it helps that people throw themselves in and don’t play safe. If we rationalise, intellectualise characters too much, make them sensible, then we lose the stupidity that makes us human.
The clown is where we all really live. I love actors who are unafraid to improvise and are up for trying pretty much anything. This cast do all that and are bloody good actors to boot.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Windfall’?
Do it. Or there will be violence.