Writer: John Hollingworth
Music: Scott Gilmour and Claire Mckenzie
Director: Emily Hutchinson
Choreographer: Darragh O’ Leary
Reviewer: Sophie Dodworth
Songs from the Seven Hills is a Sheffield Peoples production, made by the people of Sheffield, about the people of Sheffield. This new musical takes you on a journey through some real-life, Sheffield experiences; told by 60 actors.
Written by John Hollingworth, with fine detail and interesting intertwining the narrative is intriguing and punchy for the audience. Not an easy task with such a large cast, but he succeeds admirably in bringing together the contrasting tales of Sheffield people.
Director Emily Hutchison does a marvellous job of navigating the 60 strong cast around the Crucible Theatre stage. The transition between each scene is smooth, seamless and quick. The varying, well-constructed sets make for an engaging viewing, keeping the audience on their toes.
The individual stories include modern issues, including a transgender teen transitioning with opposing family views, a widow getting over the death of her late husband (his ghost narrating in parts) and a female vicar finding her ‘voice’ after leaving a violent relationship. The main thread throughout the piece seems to be the migration of a Syrian family on their journey to Sheffield, seeking a warm welcome and sanctuary in the Steel City.
Through its entirety there are some great comedy moments, all rousing a collective laugh from the Crucible auditorium. From the over-enthused manager at ‘Scandea’ (Ikea) and her under-enthusiastic, ill-performing team to the widow keeping her husband’s ashes in a cereal box, because the ashes she scattered at the ceremony were ‘just off the barbeque’. You are also hit with some deep emotional, sombre moments too; sensing the desperation of the Syrian family to just be wanted somewhere.
There are some real standout performances within the cast. The females in the Syrian refugee family have beautiful voices, producing melodic harmonies without fault; they are suited for musical theatre futures, simply outstanding. The choral numbers with the majority of the cast on stage were appreciated by the audience but were often let down by the low (or maybe even non-existent?) at times, with some lines being totally lost.
Sheffield is a strong multi-cultural, mixed society city and the aim of this story was clearly to portray this. John Hollingworth accomplishes that aim and you are left with one of the last, thought-provoking lines, “Wherever you’re from, like the rest of us, we’re made in Sheffield’.
Songs from the Seven Hills is a really unique piece of theatre and while there are some tuning, sound and timing issues, it is well worth a visit.
Runs until 21 July 2018 | Image: Mark Douet