Review: Pressure - Compelling play honours Dalkeith’s forgotten WWII hero

Pressure
Pressure
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HE was the forgotten hero of World War II, Dalkeith-born Group Captain James Stagg, the Royal Air Force meteorologist who ‘won the war’ by convincing General Eisenhower to delay the D-Day landings.

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KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street

The story of how Stagg achieved this historic feat is revealed in the latest production from the Touring Consortium.

Originally commissioned by The Lyceum in 2014, Pressure, by David Haig, who also stars as the dour weatherman, is a fascinating glimpse into the 72 hours leading up to the decision to delay Operation Overlord.

At 1pm on Friday 2 June, 1944, Stagg walks into his make-shift weather room at Allied Headquarters, he is there with Irving P Krick, Hollywood’s meteorological movie consultant.

Together they must make the most important weather forecast of all time, one that could save or cost the lives of 350,000 men.

There is just one problem, Krick forecasts glorious weather while Stagg predicts severe storms. And so unfolds a tale of anticyclones, isobars, wind velocity and air pressure.

As Stagg, Haig creates a punctilious, shambling ‘little’ character that is, initially, not particularly likeable.

This is highlighted by his clashes with Eisenhower’s aide-de-camp, Kay Summersby, played with supreme tenderness, brittle vulnerability and steely understanding by an excellent Laura Rogers.

If their sniping is at times laugh out loud funny, so too are many of the exchanges between Stagg and Eisenhower, a towering performance by Malcolm Sinclair who dominates his every scene and another star turn.

As illicit trysts are hinted at and Stagg attempts to deal with the stress of his pregnant wife being rushed to hospital, Haig teases out the humanity in his character in an immensely watchable performance.

The leads receive strong support from the remaining members of the company, including Michael Mackenzie who is on fine comedic form in a Benny Hill-esque cameo as a the base’s retired electrician.

Peppered with witty rejoinders, Haig’s script motors along at a fair rate of knots despite occasionally boasting the hypnotic quality of a shipping forecast.

Though it loses momentum towards the end, this distracts little from the director John Dove’s compelling production, which also contains the funniest explanation of the game of rugby that you will ever hear.

Run ends Saturday