Review: 4**** Pressure – @ParkTheatre

Tweetingit: 4**** A riveting tale of the d-day landings and how a weather forecast went into battle. Proof that history is the new rock and roll!

In the film Yanks, Captain John shouts out to a GI: Britain’s a beautiful country they just forgot to put the roof on! Well that missing roof created the mother of all dilemmas for allied commanders on the eve of d-day. The Park Theatre provides the perfect setting for Pressure, a story of two experts searching for common ground in a weather forecast. 2 (11)Dr James Stagg (David Haigh), a renowned meteorologist has been recruited by the RAF while counterpart Irving Krick (Philip Cairns) holds the rank of colonel in the US Air Force. Both men have been seconded to Allied Command in Portsmouth; their brief is to finalise the weather forecast prior to invasion on 5th June 1944. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) has overall command and demands certainty before issuing the final order.

However, his experts cannot agree on their forecast. Krick relied on the analysis of historic weather patterns and naturally assumed conditions would repeat themselves. However, such methods were anathema to Stagg who believed meteorology was driven by instinct rather than formula. So we learn how and why the decision was made to delay the invasion by 24 hours to 6th June 1944.

The play distils a key event from World War II down to a stark choice. Does the weather forecast support a mass invasion of 350,000 troops by air and sea?  A simple ‘yes’ could risk mass casualties if the forecast was wrong; an even simpler ‘no’ could extend the war by months or even years causing greater destruction. The weather over that first weekend in June had been fine; surely it couldn’t change that quickly? Well, of course, it could! But in 1944 the weather could not be predicted more than 24 hours ahead. Robert-Heard-David-Haig-l-r-in-Pressure1-700x455The British obsession with weather produced some laugh out loud moments; particularly when Stagg explained the vagaries of a day at the seaside to a bemused Krick!  The play also explored the dynamics of leadership in a time of war; the agony of making a decision and hoping it might save more lives than it took?

Pressure is an intense and deeply moving story that rightly highlights the role of meteorologists in the d-day landings. The cast were magnificent throughout; David Haigh unsurprisingly takes the plaudits as author and star; but Malcolm Sinclair runs him close with a great turn as Dwight D. Eisenhower. The only real downside was the technical dialogue which although required for authenticity, left me searching the deepest recess of my mind. The play will deservedly transfer to the West End in June for a short run; a fitting tribute to unsung heroes.

Author: David Haigh

Director: John Dove

Producer: Jonathan Church Productions and Oliver Mackwood

Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/pressure

Booking until: 28 April 2018

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