This deeply fascinating true story makes for surprisingly compelling drama that reminds us that it is the ordinary people who made all the difference in the outcome of the war.
If there anything that the British love to do is talk (or complain) about the weather but combine this with a little known story from WWII and we can all begin to understand just how important the impact that mother nature has on all kinds of situations – in this case the D-Day Landings.
Written by and starring David Haig, Pressure tells the background to the D-Day landings, focusing particularly on the final four days leading up to the events and how it all depended on James Stagg’s weather forecast.
While initially perhaps this seems like a slightly flat story, thanks to John Dove’s surprisingly intense production and the strong characterisations of all the key players involved, it soon becomes an intelligent and heartfelt one with plenty of conflict and self-doubt that keeps the audience successfully engaged throughout.
Much of Haig’s play relies on the uncertainty and unpredictability of the weather as Stagg consistently says that it is difficult to deliver a long range forecast and this works well in the favour of the production – despite the audience knowing what the final outcome is. But it is also the way in which the characters begin to develop and change throughout that makes Pressure fascinating to watch – in particular Stagg himself who is particularly stiff and determined to work alone much to the frustration of the Americans in the beginning but soon he transforms into more of a ‘team player’ as the pressure begins to take its toll.
Despite being filled with technical terms that those not familiar with the science of it all will not (perhaps) fully comprehend, it is clear sighted and concise, with each scene change gliding easily throughout that time passes surprisingly quickly. This is helped by Colin Richmond’s wonderfully authentic looking set design andTim Mitchell’s effective lighting.
It is not a play in which an awful lot happens in all honesty with a lot of references to charts, but somehow you still find yourself in suspense about the outcome because of the intensity and focus of the cast.
David Haig as James Stagg, highlights the character’s stiffness, passion and utter conviction his approach is the correct one with great focus and intensity that makes for a compelling performance as the initial conversation he has with Irving Krick (Philip Cairns) about the forecast proves. But he is matched by Laura Rogers as Kay Summersby who comes across as brisk, intelligent but also rather maternal to those around her as the way she handles Stagg’s near breakdown shows. It is a lovely performance that compliments all those around her.
Meanwhile, Philip Cairns as the arrogant and brash Colonel Irving P Krick and Malcolm Sinclair as the abrupt and impatient General Eisenhower also deliver strong and commanding performances, bringing their characters vividly to life to great effect.
While it might not appeal to everybody, Pressure is certainly an extraordinary story that deserves to be told and has been richly brought to life by both the cast and creative team of this strong production.
By Emma Clarendon