Review: Standing at Sky’s Edge at Sheffield Crucible

Yesterday I attended a full house at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre; I have never seen it so packed before. I was unable to see the 2019 production and clearly, it has gathered fans since then. But will this show be a success in London? 

By Angie Millard

The previous director of The Crucible Daniel Evans is now at The National theatre and he has already transferred the Musical Everyone’s Talking about Jamie to the West end, so signs are good. My main concerns rest on the parochial nature of the piece. 

The setting is a room in a flat on Park Hill Estate, which three families inhabited from 1960 to the present day. Park Hill dominates the skyline of Sheffield city. It is an estate of apartments and maisonettes, once hailed as a part of a brave new world, but which eventually became a byword for drugs, gangs and violence. It was given a grade 2 listed status in 1997 and in 2006 a refurbishment began in order to sell the flats to private owners. This history gives the author Chris Bush a framework for a story. We meet a grateful 6’0s couple, an ’80s immigrant family and, in 2015, a smart, lesbian singleton, starting a new life. These archetypes/stereotypes take us through the years with obvious narratives of strikes, racism, and a search for contentment.

The use of the cast is ambitious and imaginative, reminding me of some of the choreography used by Frantic Assembly. The music is stirring and beautifully sung in solos or chorus and the ensemble acting is impressive. 

Scenes are created around the flat in a structure like the real building and the orchestra is situated in one of the famous walkways. Before the interval, boxes and furniture are thrown off the balconies, mirroring the infamous dropping of a television in 1979, on top of an eight-year-old child.

There are scenes featuring Henderson’s Relish, much loved and known locally as Hendos. Edith Henderson was my sister’s Godmother and it was a small family firm. I was born in Sheffield and am still addicted to Hendos. However, I worry about the confusion this may cause to Southerners who have never heard of this delicacy! Also places in the city like Pitsmoor, Fulwood, Coles Corner could be meaningless to a southern audience.

The author speaks of the Sheffielder’s pride, honesty and sense of humour. That is true of most places, just substitute, Manchester, Liverpool or London. Don’t let’s glamorise the gritty past.

I wish the show all the best but think nevertheless, it lacks the tang of ‘Hendos’ and the spice of new ideas.

Standing at Sky’s Edge is being performed at Sheffield Crucible until Saturday 21 January 2023.