by David Haig.
Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 28 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 11, 19, 25 June 2.45pm.
Audio-described 20 June, 21 June 2.45pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 June.
Making the weather forecast a matter of tension.
I wasn’t the only audience member who had travelled some distance to Saturday’s Minerva performance, leaving amid heavy rain and thunder to arrive and find a hot sunny afternoon out of a copybook summer. It was good preparation for David Haig’s new play, fresh down from Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum. For the barometer provides one sort of pressure governing the action.
We know now what happened, but in the period leading up to the D-Day Normandy landings of June 1944, any tremor of uncertainty needed ironing-out. Future American President Dwight Eisenhower was in overall command and well aware of the psychological pressures and physical dangers involved for thousands of soldiers waiting cooped-up to invade Nazi-controlled Europe and begin the push which could either lead to the Second World War’s end, or – should the landings fail – its indefinite continuing.
Only one thing couldn’t be controlled; the weather. Two experts, using different forecasting methods, gave contrasting forecasts. Trusted American Irving Krick, with a good track-record predicted calm seas and a prosperous voyage. Prickly Scots meteorologist James Stagg foretold vessel-churning storms and low fog, making air-cover impossible.
It was, ultimately, Eisenhower’s call and Malcolm Sinclair shows the pressure on Ike as his temper control goes haywire. Meanwhile, Stagg’s brisk manner is undermined when his wife is taken suddenly into hospital for a difficult birth.
Haig’s performance might have been written for him – well, it was – allowing Stagg’s peremptory behaviour to shade into the strain of explosive anger and anxiety. He captures the expert’s ridiculous side, railing against the sky for being cloudless when he’d predicted storms, until John Dove’s production hints at change with a darkening view from the window and some papers blown in the wind.
The barometric contest makes for a story told in isobar readings and weather charts with surprising success (Haig the writer keeps us waiting but always explains), making the offstage Mrs Stagg’s predicament seem a mite contrived. As the other important character, Laura Rogers’s Kay is natural and moving, the female officer who responds with immediate efficiency and reticent expression of feelings towards the men commanding her.
Kay Summersby: Laura Rogers.
Group Captain Dr James Stagg: David Haig.
Flight-Lieutenant Andrew Carter: Robert Jack.
Lieutenant Battersby/Captain Johns: Anthony Bowers.
Petty Officer Jack Hamilton: Scott Gilmour.
General Dwight D Eisenhower: Malcolm Sinclair.
Colonel Irving P Krick: Tim Beckmann.
Electrician/Admiral Bertram Ramsay: Michael Mackenzie.
Air Chief Marshall Sit Trafford Leigh-Mallory: Alister Cameron.
General Tooey Spaatz/Commander Franklin: Gilly Gilchrist.
Director: John Dove.
Designer: Colin Richmond.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound/Music: Philip Pinsky.
Video: Andrzej Goulding.
Deputy lighting: Guy Jones.