Pressure by David Haig

31st October, 1st, 2nd November 2019

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Cast        Production Team
Dr James Stagg Dean Bartholomew   Director Christian Mortimer
Lieutenant Kay Summersby Fiona Delves   Production Assistant Cathy Naylor
Andrew Freddie Parker   Stage Manager Jean Cooper
Naval Meteorologist Nick Charles   Assistant Stage Manager Emily Cooke
General Eisenhower Howard Platt   Backstage Assistant Judith Thompson
Col Irving Krick Phillip Watson   Properties Val Jones & Vee Wells
Captain Johns Adam Rabinowitz   Continuity Babs Oakley
Electrician Graham Milne   Wardrobe Liz Adams
Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory Martin Howarth   Set Design & Construction Stephen Radley
Admiral Ramsey Richard Cohen   Lighting design Terry Tew
General Spaatz Graham Milne   Sound/Lighting Operation Sarah Biggs & Val Jones
Commander Franklin Michael Lewkowicz   Sound Design Cathy Naylor
Lieutenant Battersby Adam Rabinowitz   Programme & Poster Design Howard Platt
      Production Photos Garry Cooper

Society : Loughton Amateur Dramatic Society
Production : Pressure
Date : 31st October 2019
Venue : Lopping Hall
Report by : Carly Hilts and Simon Jones

I was really glad to be asked to cover this show, and to have the opportunity to see another LADS play after so enjoying ‘The Lion in Winter’ before – you put together such interesting productions, and the welcome is always so warm. This play in particular was well-rounded and very well-acted, well done to all involved. 

As ‘Dr James Stagg’, Dean Bartholomew achieved a real stand-out performance with a very believable character enhanced by moments of superb emotional depth. From the start Dean gave us a thorough and always interesting portrayal, capturing the brisk, urgent mood of ‘Stagg’ very effectively with really good pace of dialogue. His brusqueness was often very funny, which contrasted well with his anxiety for his pregnant wife – his panic attack, with shaking hands sloshing tea from its cup, was poignantly believable. What really impressed me, though, was the rapport that he built with the audience – when ‘Stagg’ took a phone call with news of his wife and tearfully said ‘thank you for letting me know’, a genuine ripple of concerned sympathy could be heard running through the audience, and when he later revealed that it had been good news and he had a son, one man cheered. The audience was evidently utterly absorbed in ‘Stagg’s’ story, something that I haven’t seen before in any play that I’ve been to for NODA – congratulations.

Fiona Delves’ ‘Lt Kay Summersby’ was a lively and engaging character. I really enjoyed her ‘capable head girl’ persona, and the opening scene where she strove to hide her evident exasperation with ‘Stagg’ behind a bright smile was very funny. Her relationships with other characters were very human and believable – the physical cringe in her interactions with ‘Krick’ told us everything we needed to know about his character, while her blossoming friendship with ‘Stagg’ was a very enjoyable journey. The key relationship was, of course, with ‘Eisenhower’, and was depicted with real sensitivity and feeling – Fiona has such an expressive face, and this really came to the fore in the beautifully tender look that she gave the general when he fell asleep after talking about American Football towards the end of the play. Fiona also has excellent comic timing – I particularly enjoyed her tipsy acting, which was very convincing and funny!

As ‘General Eisenhower’, Howard Platt portrayed a complex and impressively varied character, demonstrating his great dramatic range by swinging from jovial optimism to ferocious temper, with some very sweet moments with ‘Summersby’ in between. The loving look that he gave her from the doorway when she was cooling herself at the window was utterly believable – this pair had great stage chemistry. He had a good consistent accent and also did a pretty impressive Winston Churchill impression – an entertaining and thoroughly interesting characterisation.

The play found a worthy antagonist in Phillip Watson’s ‘Col Irving Krick’ – he showed really interesting character development over the course of the play, as ‘Krick’ initially came across as merely exasperatingly ebullient and over-exuberant (providing a striking contrast with his more buttoned-up British colleagues), before emerging as a much more confrontational figure. Very effective.

Freddie Parker represented a genial and engaging figure as ‘Andrew’, but I’d particularly like to commend him for his quick reaction when the hat stand fell over in the first scene – Freddie didn’t drop character, but smoothly picked the stand back up, saying ‘Let me get that, Sir’, before continuing with the scene – a flawless cover, and professionally done! Nice work.

I would also particularly like to commend Graham Milne for his amazingly contrasting performance as the ‘Electrician’ and ‘General Spaatz’ - he managed to create two such different characters that I had to check the programme to see who was playing the general, as I didn’t recognise him. The jovial, if weary and homesick, electrician was a very likeable salt-of-the-earth type; the transformation into ‘Spaatz’ was impressively comprehensive, whether in his accent, his demeanour, or even in the way that Graham held himself, it was like watching two different men. Really very well done indeed.

Together with ‘General Spaatz’, ‘Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory’ (a dignified and statesmanlike Martin Howarth), ‘Admiral Ramsay’ (an authoritative performance by Richard Cohen), and ‘Commander Franklin’ (Michael Lewcowicz, a believable leader of men) formed a very effective quartet of martial leaders – each was very much his own character, and each had an impressively military bearing in the way he held himself – they were very convincing officers.

As the ‘Naval Meteorologist’, Nick Charles was a calm presence on the stage. He was particularly good at ‘background bustle’, though, always active and always creating something interesting to see. This didn’t detract from the main action, but helped imbue the set with the sense of it being a real working place.

Adam Rabinowitz gave an earnest performance as ‘Lt Battersby’, contrasting well with his other appearance as ‘Captain Johns’. Well done for creating two distinct characters, and for an entertaining performance.

I hope Christian Mortimer is proud of this emotionally rich production – all of the characters were really well devised and well rounded (it seems odd to say ‘they seemed really real’ when the play is a true story, but this is testament to the great performances given by the cast), and the relationships between them felt very believable. Good use of the available space – the ‘office’ very much felt like a real place – but I was most impressed by the pace and energy of the dialogue, which flowed beautifully. Well done!

Stage Management
I don’t have much to say about stage management, which is always a big complement to how smoothly everything went! Well done to SM Jean Cooper, ASM Emily Cooke, and Backstage Assistant Judith Thompson for keeping things rolling so effectively and efficiently – there was nothing to distract or pull the viewer out of the story.

Sound and Lighting
Lighting was designed by Terry Tew, and sound by Cathy Naylor; they were operated by Sarah Biggs and Val Jones. The lighting was used efficiently to create a sense of a real indoor space (I realise I have mentioned realism in quite a few sections, but the feeling of looking through a window onto an actual situation was very impressive); there were no superfluous effects or anything to break the spell of authenticity. Sound was also used to great effect, such as the distant noise of the crashing aircraft, and well-timed ringing of the telephones.

Set Design
Designed and constructed by Stephen Radley, the set was really immersive, creating a believable sense of a real workplace. It was impressive how a few well-chosen pieces of furniture really captured the historical period, and I was particularly taken by the big weather maps, which were the perfect finishing touch and looked fantastic. I was talking to the chap behind the bar during the interval who said they had been specially made for the production – the effort was certainly worth it, they were great!

An excellent assemblage of period-appropriate props had been put together by Val Jones and Vee Wells, including some impressively specialised meteorological equipment that must have been tricky to source or make. This really enhanced the historical feel of the production – nicely done.

Well done to Liz Adams for putting together a historically appropriate and very consistent wardrobe for the cast. The uniforms were very sharp (though was ‘Krick’s’ slightly too big for him?), enhancing the characters’ military bearing, and very much adding to the period feel of the play.

Designed by Howard Platt, this was an attractive and very interesting programme. LADS programmes are always so informative (I enjoyed the handy historical context and dynastic family trees given for the ‘Lion in Winter’ too), and in this case the historical background information and the text about weather forecasting was great to read. Best of all though was the inclusion of photos of the real people who were being portrayed – it really brought home that this was a true story and was a very neat touch.

Front of house
Thank you very much for such a warm and friendly welcome – your FoH team were so kind. I’d also like to mention the barman (I wish I’d noted down his name!) who I spoke to in the interval – after clocking my badge, he had all sorts of interesting insights into the production to share, not least the creation of those wonderful weather charts. Always a joy to come to a LADS show – I hope to see you again!