If you’re anything like me, you’ll already have planned how to spend every last penny of a big lottery win, you may even have a printed and laminated list, just like Galvan, the religious workaholic at the heart of Scooter Pietsch’s viciously funny Windfall, which has its UK premiere at the Southwark Playhouse.
For a small team of employees at a drab data entry company, brought beautifully to life by Rachel Stone’s authentic set design, it’s another day trying to avoid the wrath of their boss, Glenn (Jack Bennett). The biggest mystery of this play is how Glenn has never had the Skinny and Sweet in his morning coffee replaced with rat poison, so vile is the character that berates, degrades, and torments his loyal staff.
It’s usually the day Galvan (Gabriel Paul) buys their lottery tickets, but after seeing a vision from God, he’s convinced they’re going to win the $500m jackpot, all he has to do is convince his co-workers to buy more than their usual five tickets each. For this vision to come true, they’ll need 4555 tickets between them and that turns out to be an easier than expected sell.
Chris (Wesley Griffith) is broke, but manages to find what he needs, Kate (Judith Amsenga) has just had a raise but is behind on the mortgage payments, while Hannah (Audrey Anderson) just needs to escape her oppressive husband. There’s one more co-worker to convince; Jacqueline (Joanne Clifton) only joined the firm that morning, but already realises the need to find a way out.
The fact that they need the win to enable them to leave is neatly summed up by Hannah, “any paycheck is better than the unknown,” they’ve found themselves in a rut, and can’t see any other way out. The first act goes to great lengths to set everything up and establish the characters. There are plenty of witty one-liners, but it does feel like not much is actually happening.
The second act of Windfall does a full three-sixty, as greed and human nature is brought brutally to the fore. As Galvan’s vision starts to go off course, the group become suspicious of each other and secrets are not so much revealed as forcibly extracted.
Director, Mark Bell, also directed The Play That Goes Wrong, which involves a fair amount of slapstick. Here the characters punch, stab and even shred each other, so that half way through this Lord of The Flies type descent into chaos there’s blood, ripped clothing, and tourniquets everywhere you look.
At one point it looks fairly obvious where the plot is heading, and head there it does, but Pietsch has another twist, then another and another, by the end you might start wondering if it could be you that’s holding on to the winning ticket – nothing is beyond the realms of possibility in this madcap comedy.
Joanne Clifton as Jacqueline and Wesley Griffith as Chris are the strongest of the all round capable cast, and even if the stage fighting doesn’t always look realistic, the whole company do well in bringing the characters to life. If you’ve ever worked in an office you’ll recognise these people, you’ll understand the office politics, and you’ll know the desire to be able to walk out one day brandishing a middle finger to anyone and everyone who’s ever got in your way.
Windfall languishes a bit in the first act, but we draw the bonus ball in the second, as the comedy, foul language and exploration of human instincts ramp up to unexpectedly hilarious new levels. Shocking, funny and brutally unapologetic, you might just be on to a winner with a ticket for this one.