MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Standing at the Sky’s Edge – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Reviewer: Christopher Holmes

Book: Chris Bush

Music and Lyrics: Richard Hawley

Director: Robert Hastie

From the pen of Chris Bush and with music and lyrics by Richard Hawley, Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a touch of class in a high-rise flat. No stranger to major awards including best musical production (UK Theatre Awards, 2019) and the South Bank Sky Arts Award (2020) Standing at the Sky’s Edge clearly has Sheffield at its heart but the story is part of something much bigger. Marking the end of the Crucible’s 50th anniversary year, this show continues its run as it transfers to the National Theatre in February 2023. One can only commend Sheffield Theatres on getting this story to reach a wider demographic. This, of course, will come as no surprise to its patrons as they’re used to seeing their theatre reach international acclaim – Life of Pi andEverybody’s Talking About Jamie to name just a few. This piece adding yet another feather to their cap!

This musical sees cross generations of actors, all with different stories to tell. It is essentially an ensemble piece with no key player leading the action. It’s fresh and original, gripping and full of hope but more than this it’s Northern! Without taking too much away from the the shows beauty, one couldn’t help but think it a strange choice for the main house space’s Christmas offering. However with the utterly fabulous Jack and the Beanstalk playing in the neighbouring Lyceum this is something a little bit different.

The piece boldly eschews the glitz and glamour of your typical musical but the realness and rawness of the piece is deeply moving. There’s a sort of Northern warmth to the writing which gels with Hawley’s score beautifully. The visceral performances by the 21 strong cast are a joy and collectively they never lose their humility or humanity. There are some lovely directorial moments with pleasing patterns and formations arising from the show’s musical staging – every player’s entrance and exit is perfectly timed and methodically planned – slick and utterly watchable. The lighting design brings a sense of colour and warmth to the intentionally bland set and it’s clear the creative team have worked collaboratively making this Northern musical as warm as a fresh cup of Yorkshire tea and as punchy as a dash of Henderson’s Relish.

As we look in on the action we grasp an insight into just what goes on behind closed doors. Each individual story, like many of our own, is filled with individuals who are just trying to survive. A gritty and purposeful act one finale proves just how powerful these stories are. Sheffield Theatres once again push boundaries by sticking it to the man.

Act 2 opens with the punchy and powerful title track and though the scene that follows it feels a little deflated the energy soon builds as the story becomes intensified with the last few moments of the show touching even the hardest of hearts. One defies you not to be moved by the collective sounds of the ensemble.

As the play comes to a close it would be remiss of this critic not to mention the sheer talent in Sheffield in the writing, the staging, the musicianship and the performances.

Sheffield have always had a fraught relationship with a Tory-led Britain but regrettably one couldn’t possibly comment. This beautifully crafted piece is political, it’s proper and it’s personal.

One can only predict a long and bright future for Sheffield Theatres. This determined and feisty gem of a show was well received in the packed-out Crucible auditorium and long may the work continue. Here’s to the next 50 years!

Runs until 21st January 2022.

The Reviews Hub Score

Political and purposeful

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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