Reviewed – 3rd April 2018
Operation Overlord was a planned invasion of Normandy by allied troops which began on June 6th and is better known as D-Day. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history that required extensive planning with 350,000 lives depending on what was arguably the most important weather forecast of all time. Eisenhower initially selected June 5th as the date for the invasion, however bad weather on the days leading up to the operation caused it to be delayed for 24 hours.
Much has been recorded on film, page and stage about the invasion. Less has been featured about why the delay was agreed to and the vital role weathermen played in the historic event. However this is rectified by the meticulously researched Pressure, written by and starring David Haig.
He plays Group Captain James Stagg, a dour Scottish Royal Air Force meteorologist seconded to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Portsmouth. The play begins with his energetic arrival on June 2nd and moves forward in periods of time reflected by the changing weather maps he uses to give Eisenhower the best possible weather forecast for the invasion.
Initially he is shocked by how badly prepared his operation room is and that he has to share it with the confident and ultimately compassionate Lieutenant Kay Summersby (Laura Rogers). He doesn’t improve the initial tension between them both by dumping her correspondence from her desk that he has chosen to be his.
The set itself is fairly bare leaving room for the floor to ceiling weather maps the cast and audience follow as the play progresses. The French windows enable us to experience black outs and the unpleasant English weather outside. The wind and rain effect created was especially impressive.
Eisenhower, commands the stage with his towering authority, played expertly by Malcolm Sinclair. The interaction between him and Stagg takes many stances but includes several humorous moments, particularly when the rules of rugby are explained. The initial conflict in the play is between Stagg and the American weatherman Colonel Krick (Philip Cairns) who takes a contrary viewpoint as to what the weather conditions are likely to be. Eisenhower initially sides with his countryman but slowly begins to accept that Stagg has a far better scientific and strong instinct approach to the English Channel’s notoriously changeable weather conditions. As the story unfolds we also learn of further pressures on Stagg’s shoulders, we see his stress levels rise to almost breaking point.
Haig has written an engrossing drama that gives a good sense of the war being fought in real time and the difficult decisions that people had to make with thousands of lives at stake. The casting is spot on and Haig, is ably supported by ten excellent actors. The direction from John Dove keeps the action moving well throughout and the overall experience is enhanced by Colin Richmond’s simple but effective stage design. Lighting from Tim Mitchell recreates the feeling of the period as does the sound from Philip Pinsky. The video work from Andrzej Goulding enables the audience to keep in touch with events as the timeline unfolds.
This wonderful production pays homage to Group Captain James Stagg who was appointed an OBE for his valuable services during the planning of D-Day, an event that changed the course of history. A fabulous play that remains in the mind long after curtain call.
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
Photography by Robert Day
Park Theatre until 28th April then transfers to the Ambassadors Theatre from 6th June until 1st September
A LIE OF THE MIND
By Sam Shepard
4 – 28 May | Southwark Playhouse (The Large)
With their critically acclaimed production of Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate running at the Trafalgar Studios, Defibrillator Artistic Director James Hillier today announces the full casting for their production of Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. Joining the previously announced Gethin Anthony (Jake), Kate Fahy (Lorraine), Robert Lonsdale (Mike), Laura Rogers (Sally) and John Stahl (Baylor) are Nancy Crane (Meg), Alexandra Dowling (Beth) and Michael Fox (Frankie) in a new updated version by Sam Shepard as yet to be seen in the UK. The production opens at Southwark Playhouse on 8 May, with previews from 4 May, running until 28 May.
“Love… it’s a disease that makes ya’ feel good. While it lasts. Then, when it’s gone, yer worse off than before you caught it.”
America. The great wide open. Two families torn apart by more than one brutal marriage. Out of this bleak landscape emerges a human spirit that burns bright. At heart a love story, this poetic and gritty play explores the ambivalence of family relationships, of love lost and found, against the backdrop of a macho American West.
Defibrillator’s production will feature a soundtrack composed and performed live on stage by acclaimed musician James Marples, bringing a slice of rock n roll to one of the 20th Century’s most audacious American plays.
Sam Shepard (b 1942) is a playwright, actor, director and author. He has written over 45 plays (11 of which have won Obie Awards) including True Love, Fool for Love and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, recently seen at Trafalgar Studios starring Ed Harris. He also wrote the screenplay for Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Gethin Anthony plays Jake. Anthony previously worked with the company on The Hotel Plays – Green Eyes. Other theatre credits include In the Vale of Health and What Fatima Did (Hampstead Theatre), A life of Galileo and Boris Gondonuv (RSC), Carrot (Theatre503), 24 Hour Plays (The Old Vic), In Praise of Love (Theatre Royal Northampton), Ditch (HighTide), Cling to me like Ivy (Birmingham Rep) and Cyrano de Bergerac (Oxford Playhouse). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Aquarius, ALT, Call the Midwife, Cloud Chamber, 10 Days to War and Pinochet’s Progress; and for film, First Kill, Kodachrome, We are Monster, Copenhagen, Dreck, Into the Storm, Beyond the Rave and Bus Terminal.
Nancy Crane plays Meg. For theatre her credits include The Sewing Group, The Strip, The Sweetest Thing in Baseball and Now or Later (Royal Court Theatre), Teddy Ferrara (Donmar Warehouse), Next Fall (Southwark Playhouse), Chimerica (Almeida Theatre), Design for Living (The Old Vic), Angels in America and Love The Sinner (National Theatre), The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl and Six Degrees of Separation (Sheffield Crucible). For television her credits include Genius, Upstairs, Downstairs, Cambridge Spies, Strike Force and Nixon’s the One; and for film, The Current War, Leavey, Florence Foster Jenkins, Woman in Gold, Batman: The Dark Knight, The Road to Guantanamo and The Fourth Protocol.
Alexandra Dowling plays Beth. For theatre her credits include While The Sun Shines (Theatre Royal Bath), I Have Been Here Before and The Last of the De Mullins (Jermyn Street Theatre). For television her credits include The Musketeers, Game of Thrones and Merlin; and for film, Starbright and Hammer of the Gods.
Kate Fahy plays Lorraine. For theatre her credits include Handbagged (UK tour), After Electra (Tricycle Theatre), Definitely the Bahamas (Orange Tree Theatre), The Goat (Almeida Theatre and Apollo Theatre), Copenhagen (Watford Palace Theatre), Grace, Gaucho and Sparrowfall (Hampstead Theatre), Seduced (Royal Court), Old Flames (Arts Theatre), A Doll’s House (Riverside Studios), Bouncing and Sunday Morning (National Theatre) and Othello (Young Vic). For television her credits include The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, Death in Paradise, Cherished, Pure Wickedness, The Best Man, The House of Elliott, The Jury, Trial and Retribution, The Mozart Inquest, Danton’s Death, Terra Nova, Oxbridge Blues, The Lodger and The Nearly Man; and for film, Archipelago, Defiance, Brilliance, The Show, The Living and The Dead, The Fourth Angel, Somewhere Sometime.
Michael Fox plays Frankie. For theatre his credits include An Enemy of the People (Chichester Festival Theatre), As You Like it (Transport Theatre), Leaves of Glass (Alma Tavern) and Edmund Kean (Watford Palace Theatre). For television his credits include Endeavour, Downton Abbey, Marvellous, The Ark, New Worlds, Little Big Mouth, Family Affairs, Mrs Bradley Mysteries; and for film, Dunkirk and Good People.
Robert Lonsdale plays Mike. For theatre his credits include Plaques and Tangles, Open Court: Piigs and Brilliant Adventures (Royal Court), Another Place (Plymouth Theatre Royal), From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre), A Life (Finborough Theatre), Anna Christie (Donmar Warehouse), Finding Neverland (Curve, Leicester), La Bete (Harold Pinter Theatre) and The Indian Wants the Bronx (Young Vic). For television his credits include Vera, Chewing Gum, Love Sick, The Interceptor, Lost Christmas, A Passionate Woman, Plus One and Decisions; and for film, The Glass House.
Laura Rogers plays Sally. For theatre her credits include Winter Solstice (Orange Tree Theatre), Private Lives (UK tour), Tipping The Velvet and Arcadia (Lyric Hammersmith), An Ideal Husband, Blue Remembered Hills, Hay Fever and Pressure (Chichester Festival Theatre), Masterpieces (Royal Court), 55 Days and Revelations (Hampstead Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (USA tour and Shakespeare’s Globe), Macbeth, A New World – The Life of Thomas Paine, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III (Shakespeare’s Globe), The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre), See How They Run (Royal Exchange, Manchester) and The Three Musketeers and The Barber of Seville (Bristol Old Vic). For television her credits include New Tricks, The Smoke, Dates, Twelfth Night, Dark Matters, Doctor Who Christmas Special, Missing, Albert’s Memorial, Rock Face, Running Scared, Relic Hunter, Pleasure Beach and The Sins; and for film, Love Me Do, The Right Hand Man, Nylon Ghosts and In Two Minds.
John Stahl plays Baylor. For theatre his credits include The Winter’s Tale (Lyceum Theatre), Father Comes Home From the War (Royal Court), The Crucible and Ghosts (Bristol Old Vic), Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, King John, Richard III and A Soldier in Every Son (RSC), Troilus & Cressida, The Frontline, We, The People, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and The Globe Mysteries (Shakespeare’s Globe), Frankenstein (National Theatre), The Whisky Taster (The Bush Theatre), The Alice Trilogy (Royal Court Theatre), Blue Eyes and Heels (Soho Theatre), The Found Man (Traverse Theatre). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Being Human, Beehive, Murder Rooms, Glasgow Kiss, Rebus – The First Stone, Shetland 3, Dr Finlay, Resort to Murder, Crime Story, Life of Jolly; and film, Victoria and Abdul and Loch Ness.
3 – 27 May
7:30pm Monday – Saturday
3pm matinees on Tuesdays and Saturdays
77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234
Standard £20 | Concessions £16 | Previews £12