During our recent vacation we had the privilege to see the play Pressure performed at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. Written by, and starring, David Haig, Pressure tells the story of Scottish meteorologist James Stagg and his role in convincing Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone the D-Day invasion due to deteriorating weather conditions.
The storyline focuses on the 72 hours preceding the anticipated launch of Allied forces in their effort to push back German troops and ultimately regain control of France and the continent. American meteorologist Colonel Irving P. Krick, portrayed by Phillip Cairns, however has the ear of Eisenhower, portrayed by Malcolm Sinclair, and Stagg must overcome the influential and charismatic American. If Stagg is correct thousands of lives, and perhaps the entire mission, is saved. If he is wrong the Germans might get wind of the invasion, send reinforcements, and be in a position to defend the coast.
It is hard to imagine that anybody attending the performance doesn’t know Eisenhower’s decision. He ultimately sides with Stagg, who is proven correct as the weather turned dramatically for the worse. D-Day was pushed back to June 6 with the Allies ultimately being successful in penetrating the coast of France which helped lead to the final victory over Nazi Germany.
While Stagg comes off as gruff and difficult, his more delicate side is shown in a sub-plot revolving around his wife’s pregnancy. An earlier birth was difficult and Stagg has received word she is showing the same signs this time. What started out as a rocky relationship with Kay Summersby, portrayed by Laura Rogers, who is Eisenhower’s chauffer, turns to friendship and respect with Summersby providing support for the overburdened Stagg.
Playwright Haig also hints at the often discussed relationship between Eisenhower and Summersby. Whether there was ultimately a physical relationship will never be decided. There is not an agreement from those who knew both as to what their relationship was.
I found the storyline interesting and well done. The performers did a great job. The setting is an intimate one. The theatre itself was nice and it did not seem like there was a bad seat in the house. We were towards the rear of the theatre but had no vision or sound problems. Ticket prices for our seats were more than reasonable at only $15.
While a play about 1944 weather probably isn’t one that would immediately attract the interest of most people, I would say don’t miss this one.
All photos are from the play and are not my own.