Imagine what would happen if someone decided to make a theatre production of something quintessentially British. Something that the British public loves to chat about, and something that should really not have a two and a half hour show dedicated to it. Pressure is perhaps the most British show possible and is about Britain’s favourite topic: the weather.
Pressure follows the recent plethora of movies focusing on the World Wars, Dunkirk, The Darkest Hour, Journey’s End, and although historically interesting – looking at the importance of forecasting the weather for the D-Day landings and the pressure the weathermen were put under to predict it – on the stage it was a little lengthy, dry and unnecessary. It was hard to see what it was bringing to the audience and a lot of the humour throughout was wanting and disappointing. The script, although well written, did not have the snappiness and conciseness needed to keep the pace of the production enjoyable and quick. There were many incidents, especially involving the recitation of numbers, which, although well directed and performed, just served to zone the audience out and distract their attention from the talented cast struggling under the weight of such a full script.
The cast performed well, clearly skilled, they brought much needed life to the beautiful 40’s set. David Haig (Group Captain James Stagg), much loved by the audience, brought a strong presence to the stage. Clearly aware of his supporters he delivered many of his jokes with a twinkle in his eye that had members of the audience swooning and giggling. It’s always enjoyable to watch a show where there’s a firm favourite as despite your feelings for the plot you can draw enthusiasm from your neighbours. Laura Rogers delivered a convincing Kay Summersby, a strict British lieutenant in love with the American General. Although there was obviously sexism and gender stereotypes in the 40s it was a little disappointing to see Summersby character dealt such a sour hand throughout the show, especially as she was the only female character with any lines. Philip Cairns brought a boyish enthusiasm, as one might expect of an American, to the role of American weatherman Colonel Irving P Krick and helped balance the dryness and dourness of the Scottish Stagg. Finally Malcolm Sinclair was fantastic in the role of General Eisenhower, though a special mention should go to his American accent, which although great, did restrict his volume level. It took away some of the impact when he was unable to match his anger on stage with a raised voice for fear of losing the accent.
However, I must acknowledge that the, admittedly older, audience around me clearly enjoyed the show. Although it wasn’t to my taste it was obviously exactly what they had expected and wished to see and I must credit the production for producing something that was so appreciated by them. The cast added energy to what was an otherwise simple story about the weather with numerous puns about the ‘unpredictability of the British weather.’