Feeling the pressure

I was lucky enough to get a chance to see Pressure, a play by David Haig that is currently in the West End. The play tells the incredible true story of James Stagg, a meteorologist who was tasked with predicting the weather conditions for the D-Day landings.

With Stagg predicting severe storms and Irving P. Krick – Hollywood’s meteorological movie consultant – predicting beautiful weather, the future of Britain, Europe and the United States rests on one single forecast.

At first, the play feels like it is just about that fish-out-of-water scenario, the genius in his field having to deal with mere mortals who don’t really get him or appreciate his efforts. But gradually it becomes about more than that. The isolation, the unsettling feeling that something bad is going to happen, that epic responsibility of all the D-Day participants lives resting on your shoulders.

Add to that the stress of an absent wife about to give birth, as well as pressure from a future American president and you’ve got a significant and remarkable drama.

I was totally absorbed in the story from the very start. The writing is smart and clever, littered with meteorological terms that aren’t dumbed down for an audience that may not have done so well in geography at school (that’s me!). The acting (including Haig himself, as well as Laura Rogers and Malcolm Sinclair) was outstanding, particularly once the decisions are made and it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens.

For a brief moment, I felt uncomfortable that the second half was just dragging things out but then I realised, that tense anticipatory feeling was exactly what these people would have been going through at the time. Tense is exactly the right word to describe this play but it was absolutely brilliant. If you get a chance to see it, and have even a passing interest in the un-told stories of key WWII players, then grab tickets if you can.