REVIEW: PRESSURE (Ambassador’s Theatre) ★★★★
Pressure is David Haig’s critically acclaimed play that finally gets a West End run at the Ambassador’s Theatre following a well-received production at Chichester Festival Theatre, a national tour and a sold out run at Park Theatre in North London.
Based on the remarkable true story of two meteorologists tasked with predicting the weather conditions for the D-Day landings, it seems appropriate that the West End transfer opened on 6 June, the 74th anniversary of D-Day.
A play about two weather forecasters disagreeing about a long term forecast may not sound like the most exciting of topics but when thousands of lives and the future of the war depend on this particular forecast it takes a compelling turn. This is one of the most important weather forecasts in history.
The play begins 72 hours before the D Day landings. General Eisenhower is ready to send 350,000 troops across the Channel in Operation Overlord but he needs assurance that the weather will be in their favour to give the fleet of boats the best chance of arriving safely on the French beaches. Stagg, a dour Scottish meteorologist, predicts a severe storm while Irving Krick, a meteorological advisor on Hollywood movies, predicts that the calm weather will hold. Both are looking at the same data but reading it differently and neither is prepared to compromise and risk their reputation. Eisenhower, with no knowledge of meteorology, is torn between these two experts, knowing that the lives of the Allied forces depend on getting this right.
Even though we know from the beginning how this tale ends, Haig has managed to create a script which keeps the tension high from beginning to end by taking these unsung heroes and bringing them to life on stage. The play works because the characters are well written and presented as the human beings behind their titles. The cast is strong with Haig himself reprising the role of Stagg, alongside Malcolm Sinclair as General Eisenhower and Laura Rogers as Kay Summersby. Rogers has an especially interesting role as a highly competent woman in a very male world; Kay Summersby deserves a play of her own.
Pressure certainly deserves its string of positive reviews for taking a look at a well known event through a different lens.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Robert Day