Keep calm and carry on at The Talisman - The Solihull Observer

Keep calm and carry on at The Talisman

Solihull Editorial 17th Apr, 2024 Updated: 17th Apr, 2024   0

ONE man’s attempts to read the future in the skies and convince others of his skills while never being completely sure of himself provides the fulcrum around which this production revolves.

Given that managing to convince others will directly affect one of the biggest moments in this nation’s history and the lives of tens of thousands of people adds the almost incalculable pressure the play, under the direction of Michael Seeley, aims to present.

D-Day is only hours away in David Haig’s play and Scottish weather boffin Dr Stagg has a gathering of top brass under the leadership of Eisenhower himself poised to press the Overlord button but demanding certainty over that most uncertain factor – the British weather.

Arguments, grave responsibilities, lack of sleep and a constantly ticking clock should all add to a production bursting with unbearable pressure.

A slightly contrived sub-plot of the uncertainties and risks in the maternity ward provides another opportunity to ramp up the tension.

In truth it’s hard to tell how successful that was given the peculiar circumstances of the withdrawal of a central actor and that part being read from the book by the director himself.

Heroic though that effort was, there was an inevitable loss of pace, flow and rhythm. In these cases it’s not just the loss of that character, it’s the knock-on effect on those acting opposite. One can only guess at what would have resulted from a complete cast.

That said, the cast coped well throughout and there were strong performances from many with Elli Lake as the army driver and general assistant who keeps everyone steadily engaged on the task ahead of them, worthy of praise.

And there’s a stand-out performance from Phil Reynolds as Eisenhower perfectly balancing the leader’s necessarily steely determination against the awful cost he knows will result from his decision. It’s the very definition of pressure, but to achieve a wholly convincing portrayal and include moments of humour, kindness and poignancy was superb.

A fine detailed design and a willingness to help the non-meteorological understand the meaning of the charts helped draw us into this oddest of wartime moments.

So much of our characterisation of the nation throughout the darkest moments of war revolves around the British trait of simply confronting challenge and battling through, and in many ways the Talisman proved that spirit still exists.

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