Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre
There are very few topics that can be discussed for over two hours and continue to be engaging. The weather is one, in particular, that is notorious for its mundanity in everyday conversation, but somehow David Haig manages to transform it into a gripping story that tugs at your heartstrings and leaves you itching to find out what happens next.
In a refreshing take on the often-overused World War II theme, Pressure follows the story of a meteorologist for the Royal Air Force, Group Captain James Stagg (Haig), who is burdened with one of the most pivotal decisions of the entire war. D-Day is fast approaching, and General Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) has to make the call: will the weather allow for a successful attack on Axis forces, or will over tens of thousands of Allied lives be lost in a storm? Only Stagg and his American counterpart Colonel Irving Krick (Philip Cairns) can give him the answer, and during a time of primitive technology, it all comes down to trust and faith.
Olivier Award-winner Haig, who both wrote and stars in the production, expertly implements elements of excitement, secret romance, family, loyalty and even humour in his writing. While the play has a somewhat slower start, about a third of the way in the audience can begin to feel the suspense that continues to take hold of them until the very last second. The leading man provides a performance that perfectly encompasses the protagonist’s character and internal conflicts as he battles thoughts of uncertainty and fear for his wife, who is giving birth while he is away. From vigorous conviction to shock and salvation, Haig nails each and every scene on its head.
This central performance is impeccably supported by that of Sinclair as Eisenhower, who provides an element of comic relief coupled with a ruthlessly stoic yet sensitive demeanour, and Laura Rogers as Lt Kay Summersby. The actress plays one of only two female roles, yet steals each scene she’s in with her charismatic presence and flawless depiction of an underappreciated but vital character. The subtle nuances of the deep connection and dense history between Summersby and Eisenhower is an excellent addition to the story – one that the audience seem to find just as compelling as the outcome of the war.
The Ambassadors Theatre is the ideal location for Pressure, with most of the special effects occurring on a small balcony at the edge of the room. From lightening to plane crashes to heavy rainstorms, the production and crew manage to turn a single small office into a vivid, thrilling battle scene. Every component of the drama plays off another to bring viewers a work of theatre that is unexpectedly suspenseful, heartfelt and undoubtedly enjoyable.
Photo: Robert Day
Pressure is at the Ambassadors Theatre from 14th June until 1st September 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.