Standing at the Sky's Edge - Greasepaint and Stage Lights - Theatre Radio Show

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Standing at the Sky's Edge

Standing at the Sky's Edge
Gillian Lynne Theatre (West End)
(Review Complete)

Walking through a soaking wet London Julia and I made our way to the Gillian Lynne Theatre to see why “Standing at the sky’s edge” was gaining 4 to 5 stars across the theatre scoreboard.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a brilliant set created by Ben Stones, showing part of a housing estate based on the Park Hill estate of Sheffield. This concrete structure set also gave us an outline of a flat which had so many memories within its walls of those who had lived in it since its construction and official opening in 1961.

We would be following three families and watching their lives in this flat or box as it was called, sometimes all at once on stage.

With great Choreography by Lynne Page. Written by playwright Chris Bush about her hometown and references to streets in the skies and how a communities can be as one and interact high above the town of Sheffield. Even including the iconic “I love you will U Marry Me” graffiti lit above the stage.

The music written by pulp band member and Sheffield homegrown singer / songwriter Richard Hawley, was uplifting one minute and brought you to tears the next. As the lights dimmed, the orchestra started to play and we were transported back in time to the Park Hill estate to meet its residents. We were in for a two and half hour emotional roller coaster of a ride and a journeying through six decades.

Our first tenants were Harry (Joel Harper-Jackson), who was very proud to be the youngest foreman at the local Sheffield Steel Works. His Wife Rose (Rachael Wooding) the main rock of the relationship, (although Harry felt otherwise). All was good, life was fun and they enjoyed each other’s company a lot.

Then we had a new family walking onto the stage as we the observers moved on twenty years. Now the flat was occupied by Grace (Sharlene Hector) and George (Baker Mukasa) who were looking after their niece Joy (Elizabeth Ayodele). They were there escaping a civil war from where they had fled.

As the show continued interaction between locals and new arrivals began, Jimmy (Samuel Jordan) a born and raised Sheffield lad enjoyed having conversations with Joy and soon a relationship would blossom. Joy’s Aunt and Uncle were not too keen. But there was no stopping young love.
We progress even further into the Millennium where we met Poppy (Laura Pitt-Pulford). She had moved up from London to start afresh in the newly developed Park Hill Estate following a break up with her two-timing fiance.

The difference in stage between the National and Gillian Lynne, seemed to allow us to become more involved in the action, letting us onto the estate and engage more with the characters. At one point and with clever choreography we saw all three families interacting independently in the same flat area. Julia and I agreed this worked really well.

Directed by Robert Hastie, the stage was a filled with spirited characters, each owning their own part of the stage and acting out their own life as it was on the estate. The acting and singing were seamless, the dialogue often leading into a heartfelt song or two.
The orchestra under the brilliant direction of Alex Beetschen were based on the next floor up of this concrete looking stage of the Park Hill estate and were superb in bringing colour to the voices of the cast. Songs such as “Time is”, “As the dawn breaks”, “Tonight the streets are ours” and the moving song of “After the rain”. Also, we were treated a rather chaotic but brilliant end to the first half with the full chorus and excellent choreography for the performance of “There’s a Storm A-Comin”.

Listening to some conversations as we left for a comfort break, Julia and I could hear mixed comments, some were loving the grittiness of the play, others seemed lost with the choreography and were confused by the use of microphones on stands during some of the songs. Some felt the dancing was a bit fragmented and random. While others felt it portrayed well the spirits of souls who had passed this way previously. But one thing we all agreed on was it was alternative and was a good show.

The second half beckoned and so we bounced back and forth with our key characters, by this time Thatcherism had closed down the steel works, our youngest foreman, who was now a Father, had been overcome by grief and not be able to provide for his family and had turned to drink. Rose was making ends meet while working in a local supermarket. One positive thing from this situation was that Rose had found her voice and confronted Harry about his drinking and finally her and their son finally left him to his drink but with a hope that he would change and come seeking her to return.
Joy and Jimmy had a family now and Jimmy worked as a security guard doing nights. But the Park Hill estate was not as it had been and had fallen into decline and the streets in the sky were as not safe as they use to be.

New year approaches and so does the climax to the show. Jimmy manages to get off his overnight shift and Joy was awakened by a phone call herself a nurse to say he was coming home early and how he loved her and yet, he never gets home.

Poppy’s ex Nikki (Lauryn Redding) came up north to plead for a second chance and gate crashes a party where Poppy was celebrating the new year with her Northern new found friends.

And so, the new year came and Poppy realises that life with Nikki is what she wants and so they sort out their differences and decide to move forward with the new year bringing a new start. Joy and her daughter without her late Jimmy look to move out and so does Rose and her son having found her Harry dead a few months previous. And so the flat fell dark as it awaited the next residents who will want to start afresh and bring it once more back to life.
For Julia and I there was some confusion at times with what was happening and why it was happening. But as a contemporary piece of theatre “standing at the Sky’s edge” For us it was 5 stars and one that should be on your theatre trip list. We wish it a great run. When you arrive read the programme it will help with what is happening in the musical. I must say, The Park Hill Estate really did allow us to stand at the sky’s edge and appreciate what he had witnessed and what it hopes to in the future.

Reviewers: Julia and Mark.
Greasepaint and Stage Lights

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