Hattie Ellis reviews a recent show at the Stables

It’s May 1944, three weeks before D-Day, and pressure is ratcheting up. Will the Allied forces be able to invade Europe and liberate it from the Nazis?  It may be balmy summer right now but stormy tension fills a wartime HQ. US General Dwight Eisenhower consults his two disputing weather experts: breezy Yank Irving Krick, and James Stagg, an irascible Scot with a scientific sixth sense of knowing which way the wind will blow. The clock is ticking on a decision that could lead to ‘the beginning of the end’  – or disaster.

dakota plane flying between the dark storm clouds

The Stables tautly-paced production had the audience gripped tighter and tighter as the isobars massed on the weather charts and the characters revealed themselves in circumstances as complex and unpredictable as the British weather. 

A trio of excellent performances took history into present time. David Morley’s authoritative yet humane General ‘Ike’ showed the harrowing responsibility of wartime command. Nick Griffith as Stagg skilfully built up the internal drama of a man under increasing layers of pressure. You could feel his mind whirring and his guts churning.  

This was a man’s world but the sole woman is one of the strongest forces in the play. Lieutenant Kay Summersby, Ike’s aide-de-camp (and more, says the play; others deny this) was stirringly acted by Jenny Lloyd-Lyons with pluck and understated emotion worthy of Kristin Scott Thomas. 

The set-design and lighting nailed a 1940s war-room (all tea-stain beige and institution-green Hendy teacups) as well as conveying the crucial changing weather without. Director Carol Hunt brought out the developing relationships, tensions and denouement of this historic thrown-together ‘family’ so that the Stables’ excellent sightlines framed a well-told tale to make a great night out. 

The play, Pressure, is written by David Haig. The performance reviewed was a Stables Theatre Production directed by Carol Hunt and assistant director Christopher Cook. It ran from Feb 7th-15th.  

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