SHEFFIELD Theatres continues to prove it is at the forefront of bringing the freshest and most exciting productions to the stage with its latest show, Standing at the Sky’s Edge.
The hotly-anticipated ode to Park Hill flats opened this week and comes after the huge success of the company’s coming-of-age triumph Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and 2016’s match-fixing snooker comedy/drama The Nap.
And after Wednesday night’s press launch, the remarkable Sky’s Edge makes it a formidable hat-trick for the team, perfectly executed over the last three years.
The excitement in the Sheffield Crucible was palpable — after all, the show features songs from one of the city’s most famous sons, Richard Hawley — who was among the famous faces in the audience.
And Hawley must be beaming with pride after watching the show — a beautiful, powerful, heart-wrenching love song to Sheffield’s concrete utopia which encompasses working class strife and gentfrication hype.
The musical follows three different families through different decades as they move in, and out of, Europe’s largest council estate.
1960s housewife Rose (played by Doncaster’s Rachel Wooding) and her husband Harry (Robert Lonsdale) are among the first residents to excitedly take residence in the ‘streets in the sky’.
Liberian refugee Joy (Faith Omole) resents having to move into the decaying 1980s Park Hill with her brother George (Fela Lufadeeju) and aunt, while Millennial Poppy (Alex Young) escapes her London life to get on the property ladder and snap up an Urban Splash “two-storey duplex” as part of her fresh start.
All three narratives are cleverly interwoven as the characters move around the same physical space but in different time periods.
Hats off to writer Chris Bush for the first act’s hilarious ‘dinner scene’ in which a Henderson’s Relish bottle is passed between all three families, receiving varied reactions.
The supporting cast have their work cut out and are key in helping to set the scene with ever-changing hair and clothes as they switch between the decades.
The cast appears from every corner and shadow of the theatre to create the bustling atmosphere of Park Hill’s corridors, which soon start to bubble over with racial and political tension — cumulating in a breath-taking riot as act one draws to a close.
Hawley’s music helps set the tone of the narrative — from Lufadeeju’s upbeat and soulful version of Tonight the Streets are Ours, as he tries to lift his sister’s spirits, to Maimuna Memon’s incredible Open Up Your Door as her character Nicki springs an unwanted visit upon Poppy.
As the show progresses the lives of the three families unfold and the audience is able to slowly slot together all the pieces.
All three leading women gave exceptional performances but it is Omole — who we watch grow from schoolgirl to young mum — who leaves everyone reaching for the tissues as the lights fade and the famous ‘I love you will you marry me’ graffiti shines out.
Say ‘Yes’ to Standing at the Sky’s Edge, playing at the Crucible until April 6.
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