Pressure Review

What: a historical thriller with elements of gentle comedy on the team challenged with forecasting the weather for the D-day landings        

It’s the eve of D-day 1944 and 350,000 lives depend on one of the most important weather forecasts of all time”. Pressure is a fast-paced thriller on when the need for certainty is high and information is limited. The experienced and world-weary Dr Stagg (David Haig) must work with his professional competitor, the optimistic Colonel Krick (Philip Cairns) to support the decisions of General Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair), with the support of Lieutenant Kay Summersby (Laura Rogers).

With one single large event looming in the background, the script puts an emphasis on character and dialogue over events. With the main arc covering the inhumanly large conflicts of war and weather, the cast and script work well to bring this to the human scale. All the action occurs in one forecasting room, and Dr Stag as forecaster. This gives a stifling atmosphere that is elevated by the simulated weather effects outside a large balcony window.

While the key conflicts are of course the war, the battle against the elements and uncertainty, and the ongoing professional rivalry between Dr Stagg and Colonel Krick, the overall emphasis on the human element opens up other arcs and conflicts. The developing friendship between Stagg and Summersby and the support offered by others in times of conflict adds necessary emotional variation and depth to the plot.

As a lapsed historian of WW2 I have to say Malcolm Sinclair’s turn as General Eisenhower overlaps uncannily with the idea I have in my head of him, though I did hear some people in the intermission say they thought he was potentially less irascible. It’s clearly a dialling up of an already very big personality. Eisenhower provides some of the most powerfully dramatic lines in the play but also some of the funniest, and Sinclair demonstrates clear ability to show off his range whilst inhabiting a very distinctive personality.

This was a well-paced and tightly written piece that provoked strong (and vocal) emotional responses from the audience. My main feedback would be that some minor edits would make it tighter- there are some nice digressions about sunglasses, football and about whisky that provide a still moment in the action but could be shorter as they don’t teach us much about the characters that we weren’t aware and don’t move the plot along. Otherwise there is a pleasing balance of speed and tense pauses, drama and comedy.

Where: Ambassadors Theatre, West St, London WC2H 9ND(nearest tube Leicester Square)

When: 6 June- 1 September 2018; Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Thursday & Saturday at 3.00pm; 2 hours 30 minutes including interval        


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Written by Roman Ackley