We round up the reviews for Richard Hawley and Chris Bush’s musical now playing at the National’s Olivier Theatre.

(c)Johan Persson

Broadway World: ****** “But thanks to the musical’s heartfelt depth, a new aspect of its personality will emerge at its run at The National Theatre. Not only is Standing at the Sky’s Edge a reflection of the idiosyncrasies of Sheffield’s class dynamics and political strife, it is a poignant examination of culture in the broadest sociological sense. It asks how we belong, how we pass through, and how we exist as individuals within communities.”

British Theatre.com: ***** “As the company return to the opening number, As The Dawn Breaks, given a hymnal quality at the conclusion, your heart will fill, this is totally moving and engaging experience. Shout it from the highest tower block, this is the musical to see now.”

The Guardian: **** “Originally staged in Sheffield, it is a perfect fit for the Olivier stage. A band (sensational) sits on a mezzanine platform which in Ben Stones’ gorgeous set is the outside of the estate, with the inside space below. The graffitied words “I love you will you marry me”, a city landmark, hang above, like one of Tracey Emin’s romantic neon signs.”

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “Chris Bush’s show shares Jamie’s combination of quick wit, sincere storytelling and political conviction, with the added bonus of the soul-stirring music of Richard Hawley.”

The Telegraph:*** “This musical, now playing at the National, has an intriguing concept but the content is flimsy.”

Time Out: *** “Still, it’s a three-hour musical about the social ebb and flow of an iconic brutalist estate – and Britain itself – over half a century, set to music that is, at its best, both lovelorn and elemental. There’s a stirring, string-heavy live band, and dreamy ensemble choreographic sequences from Lynne Page. It manages to be both widescreen and kitchen sink, of the theatre and of the estate. It’s a hugely admirable achievement, and if it left me personally a bit cold – and I’m very possibly the only one! – I couldn’t help but be impressed.”

The Stage: **** “Chris Bush and Richard Hawley’s thrilling, Sheffield-set musical charts six decades of social change and salutes the extraordinary in everyday lives.”

Evening Standard: **** “But one of the pleasing things about the show is that anyone can helm a song, and strong voices pop out all over: from Rachael Wooding’s spirited Rose and Robert Lonsdale’s subtly weak Harry; Faith Omole’s Joy and Bobbie Little’s Connie – who is underused both as a linking figure between the eras and as an occasional commentator and narrator.”

London Unattached: “Both the music and Lynne Page’s stylised choreography have their own language which gives the musical a distinctive character. There are no slick dance routines with characters each engaging in their own personal dance or walking through the estate as the songs play out. Chris Bush’s script is full of jokes (‘People used to come from miles around to chuck themselves off here’) but doesn’t duck the big emotional moments which manage to encompass the complexities of people’s lives. Robert Hastie’s direction effortlessly manages to keep the three narratives distinct and the energy levels and audience’s attention never flags in what is a long show. I enjoyed moments such as the scene when both Poppy and Joy are unpacking their things, with Joy’s music box contrasting with Joy’s ‘retro’ Roberts radio.”

The Reviews Hub: ***** “And that’s the true success of Standing at the Sky’s Edge. It’s everywhere, it’s all of us. But it is undeniably, indelibly, Sheffield. A city loved by its people – and if this superb musical is anything to go by, with very good reason. Park Hill may be brutalist, all sharp lines and minimalist functionalism – but Richard Hawley and Chris Bush’s work shows that even concrete has a heart of gold.”

iNews: “Hastie has assembled an outstanding ensemble of actors who give such compelling performances that copious sniffles, my own included, could be heard at the end. Alex Young’s conflicted Londoner Poppy is sad and witty, whereas Faith Omole’s Joy is touching (and magnificently sung) as this bewildered young refugee comes to love her adopted home. That, essentially, is the show’s punchy yet plangent point: by talking about Sheffield, they encompass the whole world.”

Culture Whisper: ***** “Renditions of Open Up Your Door, There’s a Storm A-Comin’ and a beautifully harmonised and hopeful For Your Lover Give Some Time are especially powerful. Credit must go to the rock orchestra, visible above the stage, for adding gutsy pzazz to the musical numbers, and Lynne Page’s gentle, lilting choreography for capturing the songs’ sentiments of hope, longing to connect and desiring to be loved.”

Standing at the Sky’s Edge continues to play until the 25th March.


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