The eagerly awaited premiere of Standing at the Sky’s Edge, a play about the history of Sheffield’s Park Hill flats, with music by Richard Hawley, is a landmark community event as well as being an artistic triumph.
Sheffield-born playwright, Chris Bush, weaves together the stories, separated by decades, of three family groups who have occupied one of the flats.
There’s a traditional working-class couple, who move in when the flats open; three refugees from Liberia, for whom Sheffield is a city of sanctuary; and a
single woman, an emotional refugee from a stormy relationship and metropolitan patterns of work.
The links between them are gradually revealed. The beauty of the play’s construction lies in the way the three groups occupy the rooms in the flat at the same time as each other, events, both public and private, shifting back and forth, simultaneously, over 60 years. It’s the kind of device that Alan Ayckbourn pioneered. It might sound chaotic, but such is the skill of Robert Hastie’s direction, and Lynne Page’s choreography, that everything fits together in a way that reflects one of the play’s major themes – the interdependence on which the health of a community is based.
The set, designed by Ben Stones, brings Park Hill right on to the stage.
The band, under the direction of Will Stuart, is inspired – fired up by the songs, both old and new.
The cast, which incorporates members from Sheffield People’s Theatre, combine magnificently. Each and every performance and song is a delight.
The political, social and industrial crises which have tested the bonds of community to their limits, are given their proper weight. It’s an emotionally charged, and in the end uplifting experience. The humour is local, without being provincial. It’s rooted in Sheffield, but would find an echo in many other places.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge is on at the Crucible until Saturday, April 6.