Theatre review: Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Standing at the Sky’s Edge might very well be a musical for people who don’t like musicals. I say that because I heard Richard Hawley tell Jools Holland he doesn’t like musicals and the show is based on his music!

I do like musicals, but Standing at the Sky’s Edge is pretty different to others I’ve seen. The songs felt more like a soundtrack for the story, whereas in other musicals they tell the story. And it worked brilliantly. The show’s emotional resonance left me in tears at the end without knowing exactly why I was upset. It certainly packs a powerful emotional punch with sadness, joy, despair and optimism sprinkled all across it.

Standing on the Sky’s Edge is set in Sheffield’s iconic Park Hill estate and tells three separate stories about families that live there in different decades. But after introducing each of the three stories with their characters and timelines, they are then told simultaneously on the stage.

It’s so cleverly done, I’ve not seen anything quite like it. At one point multiple characters are eating at the same kitchen table but are in different stories and decades.

General elections feature throughout (which happens to be highly topical in the UK right now!) while the set has been designed to give a real sense of the brutalist housing estate. Cast members often appear on balconies above the stage to provide the soundtrack and add to the sense of high-rise living. And they are a phenomenal group of singers. Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a true ensemble piece. Every time a new cast member sang, I thought, “Wow they are great too”. The musicians are also excellent and visible on platforms above the stage rather than hidden away in a musical pit.

Richard Hawley is a Sheffield boy himself, but outside of the city he is probably best known for his stint with Pulp. He might not be a fan of musicals but his back catalogue works perfectly here and Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a show you won’t want to miss, whether you’re a fan of musicals or not.

It’s playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, Dury Lane. Currently only until 3 August 2024 but I’d be surprised if there isn’t a tour or another West End run in the future.

For more reviews and arty experiences keep checking the new Arts section of my blog,

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