Sheffield musician Richard Hawley has stepped into the world of theatre for the first time with a show inspired by his songs, and he’s clearly having fun in this fascinating new world.
Speaking at press launch for new Crucible production Standing at the Sky’s Edge this week, Richard said he was approached about the idea of a show featuring his music several years ago. He said he was asked whether it was okay if they “ripped my songs to f*** in the process. I said ‘please be my guest’. That’s the edited conversation”.
He’s keen not to take credit for other people’s work and spoke of his admiration for the show’s director Rob Hastie, the writer, Sheffield playwright Chris Bush, and the whole team.
He added: “I was really part of the formation of it in the beginning, with workshops over a period of years. I’m in and out because I’m back doing stuff. They’ve got on with it.
“I’ve been involved at the beginning and coming in at the end.”
He said the show uses the stories of three groups of residents at Park Hill flats over six decades to look far wider.
“Sheffield’s story is a much bigger story than that. My background is in that so there’s a danger because it’s so personal with me and for anybody involved in that, but you can see the universe through the end of that telescope.
“It’s quite dangerous and could be a very one-sided story. It’s an important story to tell.
“You have to make it the post-war British history, using Park Hill as an aperture, an eye on things within.”
So the stories of the young steelworker’s family moving onto the new flats in 1960, the refugee family arriving in the 1980s and the young Londoner attracted by the current Urban Splash renovation of Park Hill all help to shine a light on bigger changes over the years.
Richard said: “These are stories of survivors, with all the political changes and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that they survived – or didn’t.”
The ‘stuff’ that has taken Richard away from the project includes working on a new album due out this year, but he wouldn’t be drawn further on the title or any details about it.
He gave a fascinating insight into his way of working: “I write songs now while walking the dogs. That’s not a glib statement.
“I used to sit for hours at the guitar with a pen and paper. That changed mostly when I got older.
“You have to switch yourself off the thinking about writing songs. You have to put one foot in front of the other and distract yourself. I was out at Porter Clough this morning.”
He said he was inspired to write some of the original songs for the show when he was taking part in workshops to develop it, sitting on the back stairs.
Richard talked about being involved in the show: “It’s an adventure. If you don’t embrace new things, you stagnate.
“As you get older, there’s that awful temptation to look over your shoulder and look back. I’m lucky because I never have the urge to do that.
“Working with Rob Hastie and Chris Bush and to be involved in a world that is not your own, it’s like being in Star Trek in a way – to go boldly and seek out new civilisations.
“You have to turn up on time for a start!”
Standing at the Sky’s Edge runs from March 15 o April 6. Book tickets at the Crucible box office or online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk