By David Haig

Theatre Royal Bath

Until Saturday March 17

IF YOU suppose that a play which spends most of 90 or so minutes discussing the British weather sounds boring, you could not be more wrong.

This weather in this case was a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of men and possibly the survival of the British Isles.

An accurate weather forecast was vital for the success of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944.

David Haig both wrote the play and recreated the character of Dr James Stagg, a pioneering Scottish meteorologist drafted in by General Dwight Eisenhower to tell him when it was safe to launch his invasion. Haig shows Stagg as a man passionate about his subject, brutally honest and lacking social graces. At the same time he manages to show an undercurrent of strong emotion as he grapples with personal stress on top of the heavy responsibility of his vital forecast.

His passion for the weather is quite simply infectious. The mass of figures indicating the movement of Stagg’s predicted storm are as impressive as they are incomprehensible for most of us mortals. Somehow Haig paints a picture of what is happening, as clear as a modern TV forecast but without the electronic aids.

Philip Cairns adds to Stagg’s stress and the drama’s unpredictability as Col Irving P Krick, Hollywood’s favourite meteorologist, scoffing at Stagg’s painstaking scientific approach and forecasting glorious weather for D-Day, based on dubious historic data and because that’s what Ike wants to hear. The tension is palpable.

Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) is pig in the middle. The ultimate decision is his. And his frustration with the warring weather men is agonising.

So we have tension, conflict, and even a hint of romance with Kay Summersby (Laura Rogers), Eisenhower’s devoted Girl Friday.

So riveting is the cerebral drama that the lack of physical action goes unnoticed.

You’ll never think of a weather forecast in quite the same way again.

Jo Bayne