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Stacey Tyler

Review: PRESSURE at The Park 200 then The Ambassadors Theatre

Set in June 1944 ‘Pressure’ follows the lead up to the D-Day landings, and one man’s decision that determines the course of history; the unknown but pivotal role of James Stagg, the ‘weatherman’. First presented as a co-production between The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Chichester Festival Theatre in 2014 the production has now been revived at The Park Theatre in their biggest space: The Park 200.

Pressure - Ambassadors Theatre Laura Rogers and David Haig in Pressure

Since opening in May 2013, The Park has had 3 West End and 2 National Theatre Transfers as well as 10 national tours, which means Pressure is in good company. This is a well observed, excellently written piece of theatre that any history enthusiast would rejoice in.

James Stagg (David Haig) arrives for duty at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force where tensions are high and everyone is overworked and extremely tired. It is a matter of days before D-day and everything hangs in the balance due to the potential weather. Having spent many years studying British weather, James Stagg is an expert in his field, and he is pretty sure that the weather is going to be severe come D-Day. However his American counterpart Irving Krick (Philip Cairns) who rose to fame when he correctly forecast the dry weather for MGM when they filmed Gone With The Wind is convinced that the weather on D-Day will be dry.  Stagg sticks to his guns convincing Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) to post-phone the landings despite a lot of heated meetings with the rest of the team and we see how the story unravels due to this one decision. David Haig’s writing expertly navigates this story with just enough doubt to allow us to invest in Stagg and will him to be right (despite knowing the historical run of events) and invest in the story along with the twists and turns that come with everyone’s favourite topic; the ever changing British weather.

David Haig is fantastic in the central role taking us with him on this journey of uncertainty. Had I not been au fait with the D-Day landings I would too have been questioning whether he was the right person to be leading the team, but his unfaltering belief in his predictions and his own knowledge had the whole audience rooting for him. The supporting cast are excellent, and the detail in each of their performances makes for exciting storytelling, keeping me interested throughout, despite this not being the type of new writing I am passionate about.

The Park 200 is a great space. I sat in the circle which, for this particular play I loved. I felt as if I was spying on the events below, as if we were the constant weight they had on their shoulders throughout this project.  John Dove’s direction is wonderfully detailed and with the fluidity of movement throughout takes us on this journey with the pace needed to drive the piece.

The final image is of James Stagg physically exhausted staring for one final time at his charts. The lights fade and as an audience we breathe a sigh of relief, he did it. This may not have been a play to my personal tastes, and I fear I am not the target demographic, however I can appreciate how well written, deftly directed and sublimely acted this piece was from beginning to end. It definitely deserves the West End transfer and the praise that will undoubtedly be heaped upon it.

PRESSURE transfers to the West End's Ambassadors Theatre for a limited season from 6 June – 1 September 2018