Entertaining and emotive: the National Theatre hosts Standing at the Sky’s Edge, a musical spanning 60 turbulent years of British history. Directed by Robert Hastie, the production has won a plethora of awards including Best Musical Production at the UK Theatre Awards and 2020 South Bank SKy Arts Award for Theatre.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge charts the political upheaval and social unrest experienced by residents of the Park Hill estate from the 1960’s to the present day. The production jumps between timelines, focussing on three main characters each navigating their own obstacles. We witness the devastating effects of the steel industry crisis, years of governmental neglect and the impact of gentrification on the community. However, one common strand runs throughout the production – what it means to call a place home.
The production is set to beautifully crafted music by legendary Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley (Pulp, Longpigs). Hawley perfectly captures the promise, hope and struggles of residents of the Park Hill Estate. An extensive and talented cast deliver the songs with passion and energy – often making the show feel more like a concert than a musical.
The brutalist architecture of the National Theatre serves as the perfect venue for this production, with faultless set design by Ben Stones. Most prominently, a large neon graffiti stating “I love you will u marry me” hangs above the audience. We are told the neon was made in response to a piece of graffiti from one of the original residents, which was removed when the housing estate was re-developed. It serves as a powerful reminder of gentrification, as a once iconic graffiti becomes an ‘artwork’.
Despite the challenges and obstacles faced by the characters, Standing at the Sky’s Edge ultimately conveys a sense of hope, even in the darkest moments. This award winning production is a striking reminder of the power of community.
Image: (c) Johan Persson
Review by Amy Melling
Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.
Read Amy’s latest review here Review: Graceland – ‘Intense, emotive, funny’- Royal Court Theatre, until 11 March – Abundant Art
Standing at the Sky’s Edge is currently running at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre London. Tickets and further information are available here.