Under Pressure? Weather forecast is looking good for the Players

 Checking the charts and the window in The Company of Players' lockdown digital production of Pressure.

Checking the charts and the window in The Company of Players' lockdown digital production of Pressure. - Credit: The Company of Players

Under pressure? Not at all! Members of Hertford's The Company of Players have grasped the COVID bull by its horns and are staging a full-blown production on a Zoom platform at the end of the month.

Directed by Jan Palmer Sayer, CoPs presents Pressure online from Monday, March 29 to Sunday, April 4.

To maximise viewers' enjoyment of watching this live play over Zoom, CoPs are performing Act One and Act Two separately.

You can choose in advance when you watch, just remember to book two tickets – one for each act!

Commander in Chiefs' meeting. D-Day postponement?

The Commander in Chiefs' meeting. D-Day postponement? Find out in The Company of Players' production of Pressure. - Credit: The Company of Players

Written by well-known West End actor David Haig, Pressure is a real-life thriller centred around the most important weather forecast in the history of warfare.

Everything is in place for the biggest invasion ever known in Europe – D-Day.

A single crucial question remains: will the weather be right on the day?

A pre-rehearsal briefing for The Company of Players' Zoom production of Pressure.

A pre-rehearsal briefing. Top row (l-r): Ken Allford (lighting), Hazel Halliday as Lieutenant Davina Battersby/Captain Johns, Hannah Leonard and Chris Janes as Kay Summersby and General D 'Ike' Eisenhower, and director Jan Palmer Sayer. Middle row: Ian Houghton as Group Captain Dr James Stagg, Amy Vince as Flight-Lieutenant Amy Carter, Des Turner as Colonel Irving P Krick and Paul Russell as Admiral Bertram 'Bertie' Ramsay/electrician. Bottom row: Assistant stage manager Brenda Onyon, Christopher Wallace as Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Paul Morton as General 'Tooey' Spaatz/Commander Franklin/Naval Meteorologist, and Theo Berkhout, sound. - Credit: The Company of Players

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Problematically, there are two opposing forecasts. American celebrity weatherman Colonel Krick predicts sunshine, while Scot Dr James Stagg, chief meteorological officer for the Allied Forces, forecasts a storm.

As the world watches and waits, General Eisenhower, Allied Supreme Commander, must decide which of these bitter antagonists to trust.

Weather reports incoming in The Company of Players' streamed production of Pressure.

Weather reports incoming in The Company of Players' streamed production of Pressure by David Haig, and directed by Jan Palmer Sayer. - Credit: The Company of Players

The decision will not only seal the fates of thousands of men, but could win or lose the entire war.

David Haig's play thrillingly explores the responsibilities of leadership, the challenges of prophecy, and the personal toll of taking a stand.

The Company of Players rehearsing for the group's streamed production of Pressure by David Haig.

The Company of Players rehearsing for the group's Zoom production of Pressure by David Haig. - Credit: The Company of Players

Director Jan Palmer Sayer saw the play at Chichester in the summer of 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of that pivotal World War Two battle.

“It is a tense, funny and ultimately moving piece of writing as the atmosphere within the claustrophobic, makeshift weather room builds as each weather expert has to predict which weather front will reach the channel first,” she said.

“The narrative line is strong, the dialogue realistic and snappy, and the characters expertly pitted against each other. It makes for very gripping stuff indeed.”

Clearly, the play would work superbly well in the Players' intimate performing space in The Little Theatre in Balfour Street, Hertford.

However, with theatres across the country dark still, was there another way of bringing it to an audience?

Kay Summersby asks: "What shall I do when the war is over?" in Pressure.

Kay Summersby asks: "What shall I do when the war is over?" in Pressure. - Credit: The Company of Players

Undaunted, Company of Players decided to go ahead with a live Zoom production. So how does that work?

Jan said: “Actors simply perform from their own homes at the same time as the audience are watching the show.

"It is a live performance, and they’ll be fully costumed.

"There’ll be sound effects, accompanying music from the Forties and even some lighting!

"Props are magically passed from one actor to another (members of our audience always ask how we manage to do that!) and it is the nearest we can get to performing it on stage without actually going into the theatre.”

Sensibly, the company's creatives have decided to perform Pressure like a TV mini-series in two parts, staged over successive days.

Audience members buy two tickets – one for each act – to see the whole play. 

Jan says this is a much more enjoyable experience than seeing a whole play on a Zoom platform in one go.

“It’s a terrific piece,” she said, “and one not to be missed!”

Performed  live on Zoom, tickets are £7.50 per act, and £15 for the complete play.

Tickets can be purchased via the Company of Players' website at cops.org.uk

PRESSURE PERFORMANCES

  • Monday, March 29, 8pm: Act ONE
  • Tuesday, March 30, 8pm: Act TWO
  • Wednesday, March 31, 8pm: Act ONE
  • Thursday, April 1, 8pm: Act TWO
  • Friday, April 2, 8pm: Act ONE
  • Saturday, April 3, 8pm: Act TWO
  • Sunday, April 4, 5pm: Act ONE
  • Sundy, April 4, 7pm: Act TWO.




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