Review: Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Words: Geoff Crumack
Image: Johan Persson

This musical about Sheffield feels like a logical step in which to chronicle the city’s recent history, driven by born and bred Richard Hawley’s music.

Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a story and sound of our times. It is gritty and raw but also filled with memory and romance. Hawley’s music uses lush instrumentation, sublime and often melancholy lyrics, the subject nearly always his home town.

Hawley’s beautiful singing voice is absent though, the masterstroke here is to give the cast the mic. The many different voices bring wonderful variety and diversity, when the whole cast sing the title song it is truly thrilling.

The story follows the lives of three different families – displaced liberian refugees, a Northern working class couple and a Southern middle class woman. Their home is the revolutionary iconic Park Hill flats, an exercise in brutalist, municipal social housing. The ‘streets in the sky’ influenced by Le Corbusier, it is epic in it’s ambition and reach.

Each family inhabits a different time frame, set against a bleak and desolate Britain rocked by political turmoil, unemployment and the decline of the steel industry. Their stories and struggles are inextricably linked. All are searching, striving and hoping for meaning, love, acceptance and value to their lives. But we witness decline, despair and failure. Ultimately there is a glimmer of a new but different future for all.

We yearn for a happy ending but bittersweet is all it allows.
Remember this though, Henderson’s does not taste like Worcestershire sauce.