Amazingly it’s nearly four years since this play premiered at The Lyceum before transferring to Chichester Festival Theatre. Written by and starring David Haig it’s a modern day classic.
It tells the story of Dalkeith meteorologist James Stagg and his role as the allies’ choice as chief meteorologist advising on the D-Day operations (overlord) to General Dwight Eisenhower.
What most people do not know is that the weather in the lead up to the operation was flat calm and glorious English summer conditions, convincing his American oppo (Colonel Irving Krick – a bit of a weather celebrity of the day; certainly compared to dour Scotsman, Stagg) that historical precedent suggested almost certain ideal conditions on the day of the attack.
Stagg begs to differ and cites the vagaries of the British summer (four seasons in a day) as reason not to be confident of anything.
What follows is a tussle of intellect, nerve and belief (or otherwise) in the emerging science connected to the then relatively unknown ‘Jet Stream’.
Underscoring the drama is the imminent arrival of Stagg’s second child to his wife, some three hours drive away from the military base in which he has set up his temporary weather station. His wife is suffering from high blood pressure (see what he did there?) and the experience of their first child’s birth weighs heavily on Stagg’s seemingly inscrutable (some would say curmudgeonly) personality. Frankly, it’s the last thing he needs in these high stakes times.
And the stakes are indeed high. Bad weather could kill 50,000 allied troops and calling it wrong would be their death sentence.
The play features 12 actors who represent the allied forces in various shapes and forms, but rotates around what is effectively a three-hander between Stagg, Eisenhower and Eisenhower’s English female driver and assistant (not to mention lover) Colonel Sommersby (the excellent Laura Rodgers).
It runs through the emotions and becomes an incredibly tense thriller with its share of laughs.
But at its heart is a superb performance by David Hare that makes you will the unlikely hero on with all of your heart.
The story contains a few twists that I’ll not share here. It’s on in Edinburgh till Saturday and then on tour before opening in London in late March.
February 1-10, Cambridge Arts Theatre
February 13-17, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
February 20-24, Theatre Royal,Newcastle
February 27-March 3, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
March 6-10, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
March 12-17, Theatre Royal, Bath
March 20-24, Richmond Theatre
March 28-April 28, Park Theatre, London.
Here’s the original Lyceum trailer.