“We don’t trust that we can succeed”
What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery? The office staff in Windfall have a weekly tradition of chipping in 5 bucks each to the lottery, but things take a turn when it is revealed that the lottery is up to $500 million, and one of the workers is convinced that they will win. Written by Scooter Pietsch and directed by Mark Bell, the show promises to be a “hilarious and chaotic new comedy.” While it certainly is new and chaotic, Windfall fails to be as hilarious as it could be, with too much of an emphasis on religion and unfunny dialogue between unlikable characters.
I was incredibly disappointed in Pietsch’s writing, as many times it fell flat or simply left me uncomfortable instead of making me laugh. There are plenty of overused tropes and sayings throughout. I was also able to accurately predict the majority of the rest of the show from the first ten minutes, especially in a conversation between Kate (Judith Amsenga) and Hannah (Audrey Anderson) about a party that had happened the night before. There were a few good monologues throughout the show, including one by Glenn (Jack Bennett), the boss, in the second act, but most failed to grab my attention or left me waiting for the next scene to happen. The characters are all greatly exaggerated stereotypes that leave no room for character development and are usually unfunny – Many times, I found myself trying to find a single reason to root for the characters and was unable to find anything.
As an American, I found myself frustrated with the accents and noticed them slipping quite a bit, especially in the second act when there is a lot more yelling and some longer monologues than the first act. Wesley Griffith (Chris) and Amsenga in particular appeared to struggle, and at times it seemed that the actors would mess up their lines, possibly because of their focus on the accent attempts.
Something that I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see was the emphasis on religion. In fact, nearly the entire plot hinges on one of the characters, Galvin (Gabriel Paul), believing that he is a “messenger of God” and that the group will win the lottery because of a vision that God had given him.
I found myself nodding along when one of the other office staff yells at Galvin, telling him to “Shut the Hell up with the Bible verses.” There is one hilarious bit in which Galvin claims something to be “the work of God” and all those who had previously mocked his religious beliefs do prayer hands and say “Amen” together (this was actually one of my favorite moments in the show).
There are some funny physical comedy moments but they tend to go on for too long, typically so there can be dramatic reveals of blood and other messes. Typically, Chris is the one getting beat up and he is constantly covered in fake blood and staggering around the office. The fights are also incredibly unconvincing, with many slaps and punches leaving wide open space in between the two fighters and the sound effects going off far away from the actual action. Obviously, there is a level of disbelief when watching fights in a theatre, but there should be some aspects of realism in order to make it even slightly convincing.
Luckily, there are some likable aspects to this show that did not make me leave at the interval. Rachel Stone’s set and costumes fit the show perfectly, with fun costumes that are practical for physical comedy and an office that truly looks like something that one might find in Ohio. Joanne Clifton shines as Jacqueline, a new employee who has been brought in by Glenn to whip his workers into shape, instilling fear in them by claiming that Jacqueline will replace the slowest typer. Clifton plays the complicated part beautifully with a perfect mix of humour and angst. Bennett also deserves praise for his role as Glenn, especially in the final scenes of the show.
Ultimately, Windfall has potential as a show full of dark humour and physical comedy, but it fails to create characters that the audience will root for and leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth.
Windfall is running at the Southwark Playhouse Borough from 9 February to 11 March. The show has an approximate runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes including a 20-minute interval. CONTENT WARNINGS: Strong language and violence. Tickets can be purchased here.