Windfall (Southwark Playhouse Borough)

Posted: February 15, 2023 in Theatre

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Writer: Scooter Pietsch

Director: Mark Bell


After a day at the office, what could be better than an evening at the office? American writer Scooter Pietsch’s comic morality fable, Windfall, takes a broad swipe at office life – its backstabbing, secret affairs, jealousies, frustrations, and so on. The most notable thing that the group in the play are not seen to do is work.

Office manager, Kate (Judith Amsenga), unmarried and senior in years, is a quietly efficient leader. In contrast, Hannah (Audrey Anderson) is separated and prone to bouts of hysteria, seeing herself as Sally Field in Norma Rae. Chris (Wesley Griffith) clings to the guitar belonging to his recently deceased father and drowns his sorrows in booze. Galvan (Gabriel Paul) is a put-upon religious zealot who believes that he is God’s messenger. The lives of these four are humdrum and the only escape could be a winning lottery ticket.

The comedy is slow to gain momentum, but the arrival of boss Glenn (Jack Bennett) brings some fizz. He enters with a tube inserted down his throat to combat a digestive problem, but that does not impede his merciless bullying. The play was first staged in America in 2016 and is meant to be contemporary, but the level of bullying suggests much earlier and this is endorsed by some cultural references and the low-tech office set, designed by Rachel Stone.

Glenn’s surprise is the introduction to the team of Jacqueline (Joanne Clifton) as a sort of spy. Her surname is Vanderbilt and she is taken to be a cut above the rest, but she is actually a single mother who is struggling to pay the bills. She becomes a member of the team’s lottery syndicate and, lured by Galvan’s vision that a $500 million prize will become theirs, all five invest $911 and await their windfall. Needless to say, all does not go to plan.

The first act of director Mark Bell’s production struggles to find the level of buoyancy needed for a screwball comedy and it sometimes plods. However, the investment in character development pays good dividends in a raucous second act in which all standards of decency are gone with the windfall. Bell previously directed the hugely successful The Play That Goes Wrong and he appears well inside his comfort zone when this comedy turns into unrestrained slapstick, performed with admirable precision.

Eventually, Windfall produces a steady flow of laughs, if not quite enough to live up to its title and Pietsch tends to stretch the central joke too far. Running at two hours, including a 20-minute interval (why?), this production suggests strongly that shorter could have meant sharper.

Performance date: 14 February 2023

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