Standing At The Sky’s Edge
When I saw the Olivier award nominations, combined with the word of mouth Standing at the Sky’s Edge had been getting, I knew I had to see it. Luckily I managed to get tickets just before it closed its run at the National Theatre. Normally I wouldn’t write a review so close to its closing however with the hype around this show I would be surprised if we don’t see it again and I wanted to therefore document my thoughts of this run.
Standing At The Sky’s Edge follows 3 intertwined families living on the brutalist Park Hill Estate in Sheffield over the course of 60 years. We meet young couple Rose (Rachel Wooding) and Harry (Robert Lonsdale) who move in when the Estate is built, full of hope and ambition until the recession hits, Joy (Faith Omole) who moves in as a child fleeing war and grows up on the Estate meeting the love of her life, Jimmy (Samuel Jordan) and finally Poppy (Alex Young), a Londoner who arrives with the gentrification of Park Hill, running from her ex. They are all looking to start a new life at Park Hill but often life isn’t that straightforward.
The book by Chris Bush is wonderfully written with just how intertwined the families lives are revealing slowly and carefully throughout the show. It is also clear that whilst these families are vastly different their new home at the Park Hill Estate brings them all hope and symbolises freedom and a future for them all, but in very different ways. With these characters you really get a sense of who they all are but on the wider level Bush has managed to write a book which is layered in social commentary, using these families as his lens. The residents are faced with Thatcherism to Brexit and some fare better than others as a result.
The staging by Robert Hastie is often complex, the 3 families living in the same space, albeit during different eras often unknowingly sharing their home, ducking and weaving their way around each other. However Hastie’s direction ensures the story is easy to follow despite the shifting timelines and numerous central characters.
Richard Hawley provides the music and lyrics to Standing At The Sky’s Edge, using songs from the album of the same name as well as other music from his back catalogue and some original music. Whilst Standing at The Sky’s Edge is a musical is veers away from a ‘traditional’ musical structure and often the music is used to create a mood or elaborate on how a character may be feeling than drive the plot forward. There are no ear worms but the music does the job brilliantly in evoking a mood, the perfect example being ‘There’s A Storm Coming,’ and ‘After The Rain’ for simply breaking your heart.
The cast are universally brilliant and the lives of these families have such equal importance it is hard to pick out any one stand out performance. Each of them do a brilliant job in depicting their characters growth, including for some of them shifting accents, and enabling the audience to really buy into their story.
The set design by Ben Stones is perfect for this production. Overlooking the inside of the flat that these families all pass thorough is the outer edge of Park Hill, a balcony to overlook everything from the fireworks to deprivation beneath. Paired with this is the infamous piece of graffiti that was replaced with a neon sign, stating,’I love you. Will You Marry Me?’ very firmly giving this set the sense of place it needs.
Standing At The Sky’s Edge is a beautifully written, moving piece of theatre which shows that the themes of hope and home both on the micro and macro level are as important now as they were 60 years ago.