Beyond the confines of the page, no artform manages to capture history as richly as the stage. After gestating for a few years since its original outing, creator David Haig manages to bring Pressure to a new audience. Structured around the days preceding the Normandy landings, Pressure highlights the dedication of Dalkeith-born meteorologist Dr James Stagg and his significance to D-Day.
The mantle of both writing and acting is by no means an easy task; on the acting front, Haig is tremendous. Keeping the balance between informative and entertaining takes effort. Meteorology, the study of weather forecasting, can be fascinating for some, mundane to others. Yet Haig breathes interest into the performance. There’s a dignity to the severity of the work of Dr James Stagg accomplished, but it doesn’t lead to a dry performance. Haig’s delivery can be humorous, subtle and authoritative when called upon.
As for the writing, Pressure is by no means unique or pushing boundaries. Whilst re-telling historic events can leave wiggle room for dramatisation, it boils down to the level of respect desired by the writer. Haig evidently constructed Pressure with a sense of pride (and a slight dig at the Yanks) but plays it quite safe. The gravitas of D-Day is never really felt until the second act. It is in the gentler moments we find the cast is able to sell the depth of the moment, through their talent, not the writing. At its weakest, Haig’s writing lets us down with the representation of Kay Summersby. The closeness of her relationship with Eisenhower is touched upon, and Laura Rogers’ performance brings added depth to Malcolm Sinclairs‘ Eisenhower. Rogers though finds herself relegated to love interest.
Colin Richmond’s design aesthetic is simplistic but effective. This is a production reliant on its performers, and the set elements are world-building rather than distracting. With this, Tim Mitchell’s light design and Andrzej Goulding’s video design are both welcome additions. Lighting is again simple but compliments the mood perfectly. The blackouts of the air raids add tension, erupting with lightning crashes or deep ambers of burning aircraft.
Dr James Stagg’s importance to the lives of so many cannot be questioned, nor can this country’s fascination with the weather. We adore drama, we’re a country with a passion for our history and combining this with our obsession with the climate makes for an engaging production. With little chance of dreary evenings, Pressure offers a calm night with a few sunny performances scattered here and there.