Standing ovations at the Sky’s Edge

Review: Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Crucible Sheffield

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 12:33 pm
Richard Hawley: Standing at the Skys Edge.

In the new musical set to the songs of Richard Hawley we get comedy and tragedy, joy and anger, warm-hearted community spirit and callous neglect from officialdom – which probably just about sums up the history of Park Hill over the past 50 years, and Sheffield come to that. Writer Chris Bush interweaves the experiences of three generations of flat dwellers from the working class couple who are among the first tenants in 1960, a family of refugees arriving in 1989, to the middle-class Londoner in today’s gentrified Urban Splash era. The narrative swings back and forth in time so that sometimes characters from different eras occupy the stage at the same time. The back of the set by Sheffield-born designer Ben Stones suggests a corner of Park Hill with a balcony overlooking the interior of an austerely-furnished flat. While the focus is on the principal characters and their story arcs such as Faith Omole’s Joy emerging from shy African schoolgirl to confident working mother and the descent of Harry (Robert Lonsdale) from the cocky “youngest steelworks foreman in history” to unemployed broken man it is very much an ensemble piece with director Rob Hastie surrounding them with movement to suggest the many more stories within these walls. And then there’s the music. Richard Hawley’s songs paint pictures and tell stories so are made for theatre but the real joy is hearing familiar numbers reinterpreted in different voices.

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Who would have thought Tonight the Streets are Ours would be appropriate for an African refugee? The script is peppered with zingy one-liners, many of them Sheffield crowd-pleasers, and while warmth and affection shines through, it doesn’t shy away from difficult questions of Park Hill’s past and present. But the overall effect is uplifting, guaranteeing standing ovations.