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Tempestuous and highly charged in its opening scenes, but lingering away into domestic affairs, David Haig’s Pressure has an unsettled structure. Thanks to John Dove’s direction, however, the slightly overlong diminuendo of this true story about predicting the weather for D Day has its own enticing internal rhythms.

Haig stars in the role of weatherman James Stagg, whose predictions for the English Channel on June 5 1944 were at odds with General Eisenhower’s own trusted weatherman, Colonel Krick. Laura Rogers provides a perfect counterpoint as Eisenhower’s English driver and secretary, Kay Summersby.

It is the seemingly mild-mannered Stagg’s stand-up altercations with Tim Beckmann’s self-confident Krick that provide the opening storms. The cadences start impossibly high, yet still succeed in increasing in force and bluster. Malcolm Sinclair’s imperious, believable Eisenhower provides a pacifying influence – with its own internal tempests.

The surprise is the way in which an arcane debate about weather systems is made both fascinating and dramatic. Haig’s script conveys just enough weather science to keep his audience up to speed, while Dove uses the numbers for the necessary weather charts, received by phone and repeated out loud, to provide an underlying rhythm.

Dove handles the large cast well, pitching the rhythms of the differing relationships exactly right: of the sleep-deprived and stressed, of those in high command with junior officers, and of the unspoken relationship between Eisenhower and Summersby.

Colin Richmond’s realistic design allows the Channel weather to seep on to the stage, helped by Tim Mitchell’s cleverly utilised lighting design and Philip Pinsky’s sound. A thunderous piece of theatre.

Thom Dibdin

  • Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
  • May 8-24, then touring until June 28
  • Author: David Haig
  • Director: John Dove
  • Producers: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre
  • Cast includes: David Haig, Laura Rogers, Malcolm Sinclair, Tim Beckmann, Robert Jack, Michael Mackenzie
  • Running time: 2hrs 30mins

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