Review - Pressure at the Park Theatre
Weather forecasting, as 1980s BBC TV weatherman Michael Fish famously knows only too well, is an imprecise science. In 1987, he managed to entirely miss the arrival of the worst storm to hit southern England in three centuries, which left 18 people dead and caused £2billion of damage.
43 years earlier accurate weather forecasting also had life-and-death implications for the timing of the D-Day landing in France. Who knew that play about the weather and one of its forecasters could provide such stimulating drama? But actor-turned-playwright David Haig (who has also written his own star role in it) masterfully pulls off a double triumph, delivering a brilliant performance in a fine play.
He maps out a story loaded with tension and drama - even as it also delivers a lot of dry facts about weather systems and how unpredictable they can be. Of course that's particularly true around our own island - and there are plenty of good jokes about our national obsession with the weather and how changeable it can be. The play is also fuelled by the very human dramas that runs in parallel, as the English forecaster Dr James Stagg's pregnant wife goes into labour, and the tensions with his American counterpart who interprets the weather data very differently are also exposed.
Above all it's a play about leadership as well as science, and how ultimately the buck has to stop with the American military commander General Eisenhower, who has to take the ultimate decision on when to launch the attack.
Director John Dove, who first staged this play's premiere at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre in 2014 before it transferred to Chichester's Minerva, has now revived his gripping production, with many of the same actors, including principals Haig (as Stagg), Malcolm Sinclair (as Eisenhower) and Laura Rogers (as Eisenhower's trusty right-hand woman).
Haig has built doubt into the role, but there's no doubting the man's integrity or this actor's thrilling revelation of those qualities. Likewise, Sinclair delivers a performance full of grit as well as grace; I've never seen this unsung hero of the British stage give a bad performance in anything, and once again he excels.
Photo by Robert Day