THEATRE: Standing at the Sky’s Edge at Crucible Theatre Sheffield

Photo by Johan Persson.Photo by Johan Persson.
Photo by Johan Persson.
THE writer of Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Chris Bush, said of Sheffield’s character it has “a sense of unshowy local pride”.

But this performance — a return to the Crucible Sheffield where it premiered in 2019 — is local pride on show, and stage, in the very best possible way.

Bush’s writing is a love letter to Sheffield which chimes beautifully with local singer-song writer Richard Hawley’s tunes as the soundtrack, with a back catalogue often dubbed love songs to his home city (his albums including Coles Corner, Ladys Bridge and Low Edges).

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Robert Hastie’s ode to Park Hill flats went on to win Best Musical Production at the UK Theatre Awards 2019 and the 2020 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Theatre before the pandemic struck.

Now it is back on home turf — and brilliant to behold.

The set is one single flat in the iconic building, home to three separate families during different decades.

In the 60s, housewife Rose (Rachel Wooding) and husband Harry (Robert Lonsdale, both reprising their roles from 2019) are among the first residents.

Also returning is Faith Omole who lives up to the name of her character, Joy, arriving with brother George (Baker Mukasa), both Liberian refugees, into the 1980s version of the “streets in the sky”.

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She meets and befriends Jimmy (Samuel Jordan)— or “Jim-meh”, as she teases in his South Yorkshire tones — and romance blossoms.

Pleasingly, it’s their daughter Connie (Bobbie Little) who’s the representative making the flat’s sale in 2015 to Millennial southerner Poppy, the latter symbolising the regeneration of the complex.

Poppy (Alex Young, again reprising her role) says to her colleague: “Did you know the markets here sell tumeric? Who needs Ocado?”.

To which he retorts: “Well, fundamentally — no-one, really.”

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The live band perform on the balcony, giving the score so much more prominence.

Mukasa’s George delivers a searing Tonight the Streets Are Ours, while Poppy’s ex-lover Nikki (Maimuna Memon) soars imploringly with a fitting Open Up Your Door.

What perhaps lends the 2022 production a real poignancy is the reference to the strikes in the 60s with Lonsdale’s Harry saying steelworkers are acting on behalf “of everyone”.

With postal and healthcare workers among those currently taking to the streets across the UK, his comments earn a small round of applause from the audience.  

After this run ends in the new year, the show will transfer to the National Theatre — support it at your South Yorkshire theatre while you can.


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