Standing at the Sky’s Edge ★★★★ Gillian Lynne Theatre | Feb 9 - Aug 3, 2024

Between 1957 and 1961, Sheffield erected a social housing project that came to dominate the city's skyline. The ironically named Park Hill, an outstanding example of 'brutalist' design, was intended to have 996 flats and to provide homes for about 3,000 people. Standing at the Sky's Edge traces the history of a single flat in the building across three generations of its inhabitants. Their stories become a microcosm of the city's and the nation's history. First, there is the optimism and despair of the initial residents whose lives are overshadowed by the demise of the steel industry. They are then followed by a family of migrants from Africa who are forced to make a new life and to adapt to a very different environment. Finally, the present day sees the gentrification of the site as, after a painful breakup, a young woman moves up from London and attempts to get on the property ladder. This show deals with aspiration, disappointment and the attempt to create a home. Personal and political realities intersect and play out in ways that the optimistic designers of Park Hill could not have anticipated against the backdrop of a memorable score from composer, Richard Hawley. From the ominous "There's A Storm A-Comin'" to the moving "As The Dawn Breaks" this musical, unlike many of its contemporaries, has some songs with instant appeal. Lauryn Redding's delivery of the plaintive "Open Up Your Door" was absolutely spellbinding, but the whole of the cast puts in strong performances and displays some exceptional vocal skills. While Lynne Page's choreography sought to capture the lyrical mood of the piece, it sometimes borders on distracting and the placement of performers in the aisles didn't work for us. However, Standing at the Sky's Edge is a beautiful homage to Sheffield, to the universal desire to make a home and to the resilience of the human spirit.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

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