Tag Archives: David Haig

Chart Show


Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Sunday 20th October, 2019


David Haig’s play is set the weekend before D-Day – a date enshrined in history, but of course, at the time they didn’t know exactly when the Normandy invasion would take place.  And that’s the crux of the plot.  General Eisenhower is relying on weather forecasts to predict the best conditions for making his move and sending 350,000 men into danger.  One expert is predicting fair weather, another says there’s a storm coming.  But who is right?  And which way will Eisenhower jump?

Martin Tedd’s Dr Stagg is a grumpy Scot, a Victor Meldrew of a man, but he knows what he’s talking about.  His certainty of his own knowledge and experience contrasts with the uncertainty around his wife going into difficult labour with their second child.  But Stagg is under lockdown at Southwick House and is powerless to help.  Tedd is good at Stagg’s short temper but he stumbles sometimes with the specialist language, phrases that should trip off the tongue.  His American counterpart, Colonel Krick is played with assurance by Robert Laird.

Alexandria Carr is marvellous as the only female character in the piece, Lieutenant Summersby – her accent matches her period hairdo, and she performs with efficiency, showing the human behind the British aloofness.

The mighty Colin Simmonds portrays Eisenhower with a blunt kind of charm, exuding power easily and bringing humour to the piece.  As ever, Simmonds inhabits the character with utter credibility and nuance.  It feels like a privilege to see him perform.

There is pleasing support from Griff Llewelyn-Cook as young Andrew, and from Crescent stalwarts Dave Hill and Brian Wilson in some of the smaller roles.

Director Karen Leadbetter keeps us engaged with all the jargon flying around by handling the highs and lows, the changing weather of human interactions, with an ear for when things should be loud and when quiet, and when silence is most powerful.

The simple set, in wartime greens, gives us a sense of time and place, and is enhanced by John Gray’s lighting – especially for off-stage action, like an aeroplane in trouble, for example.  The room is dominated by the charts, huge maps with isobars swirling across them, and you marvel that the technology of the time was adequate for its purpose.

This is a solid production of a play that sheds light on an esoteric yet crucial part of the war effort.  Haig has obviously researched his subject matter extensively and manages to tell the story without being overly didactic or preachy.


Alexandria Carr and Colin Simmonds feel the pressure (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)


‘king Crazy


Theatre Royal, Nottingham, Monday 3rd October, 2011


Alan Bennett moved away from talk of tea towels and drama centred on biscuits for one of his historical plays, of which this is surely the finest example.


Years before we all got warm and fuzzy about the monarchy because of The King’s Speech, Bennett gave us this portrayal of one of the earlier Georges.  At first a success on the London stage, it was later adapted into a very successful film starring the late lamented Nigel Hawthorne.  On screen the locations and the lavish attention to detail brought the period to life, but this Theatre Royal Bath production takes an impressionistic view.  The set consists of doors and door frames that slide on and off stage.  A collection of empty picture frames descends from the flies to suggest an interior of Windsor Castle.  Furniture is kept to a minimum.  An ornate but small table represents the House of Commons.   It is an effective approach.  Although the costumes have not been stinted on, this is a production that allows the characters the foreground, defined as they so splendidly are by Bennett’s sparkling dialogue.


David Haig rules the stage with his masterly performance as the troubled king.  His descent from eccentricity to full-on bat shit is both credible and touching.  His restoration to sound mental health in the final scenes is like the sun coming out after a month of rain.


He is more than ably supported by a huge cast – again it is refreshing to see a touring show that does not cut corners.  While some have more to do than others, all assist in giving us this glimpse into history.  Exchanges between politicians have satirical resonance with today, perhaps more so than when the play first appeared.  “Government has nothing to do with thrift” they announce.  The knowing laughter from the audience was more than tinged with bitterness.  A good deal of the humour comes from irony – the play doesn’t require us to have any specific historical awareness but a passing acquaintance with current affairs unlocks many rewards.  As in Bennett’s The History Boys the past is used to provide understanding of the present.  There is also much fun to be had mocking the representatives of the medical profession and their woeful and misguided attempts to treat mental illness through various means of torture and physical abuse.  One walks around with a chamberpot containing the latest Royal Stool, enthusing about it like an eighteenth century Gillian McKeith.


In one scene, when His Majesty is up to it, the characters resort to a spot of drama therapy by reading aloud from King Lear.  The Lord Chamberlain, having given a bluff and septuagenarian Cordelia, is of the opinion that Shakespeare’s masterpiece is too tragic and he would prefer a happy ending.  This is what Bennett gives us, King Lear with a happy ending. The monarch overcomes his madness.  His offspring and other political manipulators are kept in their place.  The status quo is re-established.   This depiction of George III has touched us so much that, as we file out from the auditorium, we believe this is only right and proper, and Bennett, like Colin Firth three Georges down the bloodline, makes royalists of us all.