START UP AWARD: PRESSURE
Pressure written and starring David Haig (photo credit: Robert Day), opened last week at the Ambassadors Theatre. We spoke to producer Oliver Mackwood, Stage One Alumni and recipient of the Start up Fund about the experience so far....
Thanks for talking to us today Oliver. So in your own words, what is Pressure all about?
On one level it's a true but untold history story, focussing on a decision about whether or not to invade based on the weather, and 350,000 lives relying on one moment. On another it looks at how we deal with elements out of our control, how we manage "pressure" and the lives and love stories that occur within this landscape.
The D-Day invasion needed good weather, clear skies for the bombers, low tide for the landings, the right amount of moonlight, and crucially no waves. Every available boat was utilised to carry tanks, troops and supplies, many of the boats were flat-bottomed, fair-weather vessels, and any significant waves would have meant lost lives and a failed invasion. A Scottish weather forecaster, James Stagg, was brought down from Scotland to predict the weather. He predicts storm force winds. His American counterpart predicts blue skies. The play is about the moment in the room when Ike Eisenhower has to decide whether or not to go.
Tell us about how Pressure became to be your latest project, where did it start?
Pressure was commissioned by the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, on a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT). I produced Pressure on behalf of CFT, and on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, 4 years ago, the Production opened to 5 star reviews. I have been looking to bring it back ever since.
A moment arose when Jenny King via the Touring Consortium offered to tour the piece, with Cambridge Arts Theatre offering to open the tour. Jonathan Church and I produced the play at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, to give the Production a 5-week run in London. The four parties came together to take the production into the West End.
The deal was done for the West End on the day of the Press Night at the Park Theatre, and the Producers had to decide whether or not to tell the critics it was transferring, before they had been in to review.
How does it feel working with actor and write David Haig?
David Haig is a tour de force, or as one person proclaimed, a tour de France. He is nothing short of exceptional in the play, and to have written it as well, is a remarkable achievement. He’s part of the team and the company love him. On a personal note, we’ve been working on the production together for over four years and are all delighted that it’s managed to find it’s way to the West End. It’ll be gone before we know it, it currently runs June through to August, so we’re enjoying every minute of it while it’s here.
What does receiving the Stage One Start – Up Investment mean to you?
Receiving Start Up means everything. I made a career change into theatre and Producing, and started with the Stage One workshop as so many new producers now do. Stage One have been there every step of the way, and it’s a credit to the Production that Stage One want to support through Start Up.
The financial support was gratefully received on what was my first major raise, but it's the advice and having a sounding board which is invaluable. I’ve managed West End shows for other people, but when you’re holding the risk and find yourself in the driving seat, there are new questions to be answered. You can ask Stage One anything, and I’ve always found there is someone to nudge you in the right direction. Long may it continue.