If you thought the weather could never provide the basis for a gripping drama you would be wrong as David Haig’s debut play Pressure (Ambassadors Theatre), directed by John Dove proves.
It follows the story of meteorologist for the Royal Air Force, Group Captain James Stagg, who is burdened with one of the most pivotal decisions of World War II. D-Day is fast approaching and General Eisenhower has to make a vital decision at a time when the future of the world hung in the balance: will the weather allow for a successful attack on the German forces with the Normandy landings, or will some 350,000 Allied lives be lost in a storm? Only Stagg and his American counterpart Colonel Irving Krick can provide the answer: Stagg is not happy with the conditions forecast for that date, while the self-confident Krick is all for it.
This begins the countdown of tick tock tension from June 2, which unfolds over a series of scenes in one single intensely focused map room and with each additional hour the element of surprise becomes less certain.
Haig, who both wrote and stars, expertly combines elements of excitement secret romance, family, loyalty and even humour. While the play has a somewhat slower start, the suspense quickly builds to one of the most crucial events of the war which so nearly didn’t happen because of the adverse weather conditions and was in fact postponed from the 5th to the 6th of June 1944.
As the Scottish weatherman Stagg, David Haig perfectly conveys his internal conflicts as he battles thoughts of uncertainty and fear for his wife who is giving birth while he is away. From vigorous conviction to shock and salvation, Haig nails each and every scene at its head.
Stagg’s deep weather knowledge in fact, spotted the meteorological shift in our pressure that delivered the right conditions for invasion. Strong support comes from Philip Cairns as Krick, who blends humanity with ruthlessness, Malcolm Sinclair as the big, brash, bullish Eisenhower and Laura Rogers who gives a carefully crafted delineation of Forties War Girls Kay Summersby, all poise and stoicism personified and with a crush on General Eisenhower.
This then is a play about weather, a play about war, and a play about confidence in one’s own ability. The result is a laudable achievement which makes for a truly satisfying evening in the theatre.
Runs until Saturday 1 September 2018 at the Ambassadors Theatre, London.
Box office: 020 7395 5405
Photos: Robert DayLast modified: April 6, 2021