Powerful, Passionate, but Frustratingly Soulless

“He was standing at the sky’s edge, and out there who knows what he’s thinking,

He was sliding down the razor’s edge, and watched his life slowly sinking away, away.”

Cast, end of act 1 (from the song “Standing at the Sky’s Edge”)

Cast. (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

For those of you who are fans of Richard Hawley’s music, you will be celebrating the fact that this gem of a music star is finally getting something close to the attention he deserves. An insightfully poetic, melodic, and socially alert songwriter with a wonderful baritone voice, he has built up a passionate fanbase, but has never really hit the heights his talents deserve.

For those not au fait with Hawley’s work may find it surprising that a relatively unknown, music artist is the creative impetus behind a new powerhouse British musical. But a quick listen to his back catalogue will easily allay those concerns.

Like much of Hawley’s music, Standing on the Sky’s Edge is anchored in his hometown of Sheffield, in particular the Park Hill Estate. This estate is a Sheffield icon that started as a mass council housing project. Over the years, it fell into disrepair, becoming a dumping ground for immigrants and refugees, before being regenerated as aspirational luxury housing for the yuppy brigade.

It is this housing estate and, more specifically, a single flat that is the heart of Sky’s Edge. From within the walls of this flat, we’re given a multilayered snapshot of life in the estate, in Sheffield and in Britian at three very different times.

Alastair Natkiel as Marcus and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Poppy. (Photo: Brinkhoff- Moegenburg)

In the 1960s we have one of the first families to move to the estate, a worker from the local steel mill and his new bride. At the end of the 80s, a mid-20year old Liberian brother and sister with their young cousin move into the flat, refugees from the emerging civil war, initially as a temporary measure, but soon realising that there’s very little chance of them getting back home. Then in 2015, following a significant redevelopment, a young, single, professional woman, following a personal break-up and apparent break-down, has relocated from London.

Through these three stories, we’re given a glimpse into their lives against a backdrop of a changing Britain. The narrative jumps months and years, pausing at key elements in the country’s, and the families’ history. There’s the emergence of Thatcher and the destruction of the unions; there’s the shift in economic policy that led to estates like Park Hill go from aspirational living to no-go hotbeds of crime; and then there’s the recent redevelopment that takes social housing and turns it into homes for the well-to-do.

Sky’s Edge is a feat of ingenuity. Chris Bush’s book is so creative in taking these three very different stories, anchoring them in a single location and using that to spotlight the shifting sands of modern Britain. It’s a bold and powerful story. Robert Hastie’s direction is equally inventive. Running the three narratives in parallel, separately, and simultaneously is at first a bit confusing, but is ultimately a genius move. Some of the strongest scenes involve all three families in the same room, each in their own narrative and unaware of the others. It’s powerful but ghostly eerie.

Baker Mukasa as George and Elizabeth Ayodele as Joy. (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

The ensemble cast give it their all and don’t miss a beat. Lynne Page’s choreography is a pitch-perfect modern dance accompaniment to the unfolding drama. And to top it off, Hawley’s music is beautifully recreated and interpreted. If you’re a fan, it may be odd to hear some of those songs in a different context, but the use of them works, for the most part, perfectly.

But, and this is a big but, despite all this brilliance, it just doesn’t hang together. It’s taken me a while to try and understand how a collection of brilliant elements can come together and feel over-long and, at times, boring.

The use of Hawley’s songs is part of the issue. At times the songs are sung by the characters within a scene. At other times, random characters sing the songs as if performing a backing soundtrack to a scene, or songs are used as a musical ending or beginning of a scene. The use of hand-held microphones and mic stands is oddly used intermittently and with no apparent logic. So while the performance of the songs is not to be faulted, it does, more often than not, frustrate the driving narrative, making them more of an intrusion than a complement.

Rachel Wooding as Rose (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

However, ultimately for me, the show falters because of a lack of emotional engagement. There’s a lot of story to be told and by jumping between families and leaping forward years at a time, that narrative flow breaks up and the deeper engagement you want with the characters doesn’t materialise. There are turning points and crises in each family that don’t get the emotional resolution or engagement they need and deserve.

The end of Act 1 is an overblow, loud and angry performance of the title song which accompanies major turning points in each family. It’s a breath-takingly powerful scene that sends you into intermission with the hairs on your arms upright. But act two kicks off years later and the resolution of Act 1 has to be assumed by the audience.

Sky’s Edge is unfortunately less than the sum of its parts. It is an inventively conceived production that’s presented beautifully. And whilst the stories are impactful, emotional, and even funny, it lacks the emotional punch you expect it to have.

Cast. (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

Musical Numbers

Act One

As The Dawn Breaks

Time Is

Naked in Pitsmoor

I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me

Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Open Up Your Door

My Little Treasures

Coles Corner

There’s a Storm A-Comin’


Act Two

 Standing at the Sky’s Edge

 Our Darkness

 Midnight Train

 For Your Lover Give Some Time

 There’s a Storm A-Comin’ (Reprise)

 After the Rain

 Don’t Get Hung Up in Your Soul

 As the Dawn Breaks (Reprise)



Production Notes

Standing at the Skye’s Edge

Composer and Lyricist Richard Hawley
Book by Chris Bush

Directed by Robert Hastie



Laura Pitt-Pulfor

Adam Colbeck-Dunn

Adam Price

Alastair Natkiel

Baker Mukasa

David McKechnie

Joel Harper-Jackson

Lauryn Redding

Nicola Sloane

Rachael Louise Miller

Rachael Wooding

Sean Mclevy

Sharlene Hector

Elizabeth Ayodele

Jonathan Andre

Lillie-Pearl Wildman

Jerome Lincoln

Jonathon Bentley

Samuel Jordan

Mya Fox-Scott

Alayna Anderson

Monique Ashe-Palmer

Viquichele Cross

Jamie Doncaster

Caroline Fitzgerald

Luca Foster-LeJeune

Renée Hart

Mel Lowe

Eric Madgwick

Chioma Nduka

Sam Stocks

Karen Wilkinson


Director:  Robert Hastie

Choreographer: Lynne Page

Designer: Ben Stones

Orchestrations: Tom Deering

Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson

Sound Designer: Bobby Aitken

Musical Director :  Alex Beetschen


Running Time: Two hours 50 minutes with an interval

Booking until 3rd August 2024 


Gillian Lynne Theatre

166 Drury Lane


London WC2B 5PW

Box Officehttps://lwtheatres.co.uk/

Website: www.skysedgemusical.com/


Tube: Holborn or Covent Garden

Reviewed by Sonny Waheed

at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on 28th February 2024