Standing on the edge of heaven at the national theater review

Singer-songwriter Richard Hawley and playwright Chris Bush have created a work that is site-specific and universally epic. Set in the Park Hill estate from 1960 to the present, it explores the fates of three sets of people from different backgrounds, offering a vision of social change that applies not only to Sheffield but also to the UK and beyond.

A fundamental compassion for his characters, as well as great songs, keep him from sinking into localized sentiment.

Relocated from their slum, newlyweds Rose (Rachael Wooding) and Harry (Robert Lonsdale) begin their new life full of optimism.

Next are a trio of Liberian refugees in the 1980s, followed by Londoner Poppy (Alex Young) in the early 2000s after the property’s regeneration into luxury apartments.

Inside this brutalist ‘castle’, most of the action takes place in an apartment while the gang is upstairs.

Hawley’s songs are wry, bittersweet and melodic with hints of lounge jazz and northern and western country.

The title track is a rousing tribal stomp delivered by the entire cast, while Faith Omole, Maimuna Memon and Alex Young deftly handle the big vocal numbers.

Director Robert Hastie brings his original production of 2018’s Crucible to Olivier’s stage with supreme confidence, letting Ben Stones’ towering set take over the space as the cast intersect as if they all occupy the same apartment in different dimensions.

It’s a joyous, gritty show with fire at its heart.

  • Standing at the Sky’s Edge, National Theater until March 25, Tickets: 020 3989 5455

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