The Criterion Theatre's First Online Production
Director's Programme Notes
I had been looking forward to directing Pressure since the middle of 2019 and we held our first cast reading on Sunday 15 March 2020. It was a good start, but by the next day it was clear that we were not likely to be going ahead with the show as planned due to the virus. We were all disappointed because this is a great story, and after some discussion, we agreed that we would see whether we could pull the show together on-line – and this is the result.
The story itself is fascinating. All of the planning and preparations for D-Day were in place – men, equipment, ships and aircraft – but the landings needed the right combination of moon, tide and the English weather. The play follows the - often heated - discussions between the Scottish Meteorologist Dr James Stagg and his American counterpart Irving Krick as to what the weather will be. This is set against the background of Eisenhower’s agonising decision as the man charged with deciding whether and when to put the lives of tens of thousands at risk as the fate of the war hangs in the balance. The play explores the relationships of a small group of people working around the clock in a single room between Friday 2 June and Tuesday 6 June 1944. Against the background of the changing weather maps, the grand drama plays out alongside the personal challenges of those involved.
Putting this show together has required all of those involved to learn how to do things differently. Over a period of weeks, the cast has come together from their homes (and in one case, their car) to discover if we can put together a show that we can share with you. We have learned of the vagaries of internet connnections, the intrusive nature of domestic cats and the shared joy of post lock down haircuts! I am extremely grateful to all of the cast and supporting crew for their hard work and patience. In particular I am delighted to welcome Bruce Reeves to the Criterion for his first performance. I am also grateful to those original cast members who supported me and the show, but whose commitments mean that they could not take part.
We realised fairly quickly that a show like this can only work with the right sounds and the weather maps that form the backdrop to the stage show. Achieving this on Zoom is not straight forward and the show would have been impossible without the persistence and commitment of Becky Bartlett. She drives the show alone and without the benefit of a stage manager – and makes a rare ‘on stage’ appearance as the narrator.