A star rating of 5 out of 5.

From 1961 to the present day, through Thatcherism, Brexit, gentrification and beyond, Sheffield-born playwright Chris Bush and her city-mate Richard Hawley have created Standing at the Sky’s Edge, a play which follows three generations living in Sheffield’s brutalist estate Park Hill.


When you think of Sheffield, what springs to mind? Is it Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys singing ‘now then, mardy bum’? The chaos of Meadowhall and the sweet relief of free fries at Pizza Hut? The Full Monty starring Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy about former steel workers turned strip teasers? Or maybe it’s the city’s rich history: the steel industry, the development of crucible (which is, interestingly, where Sheffield’s the Crucible Theatre takes its name from), the I Love You Will U Marry Me graffiti…

I Love You Will U Marry Me was graffitied to a high concrete bridge at the Park Hill housing estate in 2001, and it was reinstated in neon letters in 2022. I Love You Will U Marry Me is where Standing at the Sky’s Edge begins its story.

Standing at the Sky’s Edge premiered at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 2019, and was revived at the theatre three years later due to its incredible reviews, before transferring to the Olivier Theatre in London’s The National Theatre and subsequently winning the Best New Musical award at the 2023 Olivier Awards. Now, you can watch the brilliant musical at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London’s West End.

Named after Hawley’s 2012 album of the same name, Standing at the Sky’s Edge follows three families: Rose and Harry, a loved-up, young couple eager to start their new life in the Park Hill estate after growing up in the surrounding slums; Liberian refugee Joy who meets and falls in love with Sheffield born-and-bred Jimmy; and middle class Londoner Poppy, who moves to the now-gentrified Park Hill estate to escape her ex-fiancée Nikki — Poppy comes armed with jarring parents and a reliance on Ocado. These three families’ stories take place in 1961, 1980s, and 2015, respectively.

The musical has themes of community, class struggle, immigration and belonging at its core; it explores working class male pride, families being held together by the sheer determination of mothers, hard graft, and feeling seen. Standing at the Sky’s Edge is penned as a ‘love letter to Sheffield’, but as someone who grew up in a Nottingham ex-mining town, the tales of Margaret Thatcher and strikes resonated all too well. As did the regional accent — if the multi-generational stories of love, loss and hardship weren’t enough to pull on my heartstrings, hearing the phrase ‘ayup me duck’ while sitting in a London theatre certainly was! But it’s not just northerners who will connect with this musical; the set and music ensure that everyone feels swept away by the castle in the sky.

Recreating the four-storey, brutalist Park Hill estate for the stage is no easy feat. After all, the real castle in the sky was created with community at its core: the Park Hill estate’s tower blocks were named after the real streets of the Sheffield slums that people moved from, and an effort was made to ensure that people who were neighbours before moving in, were neighbours in the estate, too.

However, Set Designer Ben Stones and Lighting Designer Mark Henderson do an excellent job of creating an atmosphere which is as magical as it would’ve been to families who originally moved to the estate. There are beautiful moments of the estate bathed in early-morning sunrises, dark nights with fireworks lighting up the sky, and, of course, the neon I Love You Will U Marry Me graffiti. Also included in the set design is the orchestra, nestled in one of the estate’s ‘flats’.

The music is heavy on strings and electric guitar, with Jon Gingell taking on lead guitar with a captivating solo performance, Gabriella Swallow playing the cello, Tina Jacobs-Lim performing on the viola, and more incredible musicians who make up the play’s orchestra. Poppy’s ex-fiancée Nikki, played by Lauryn Redding, gave a particularly strong vocal performance, and the rest of the cast were brilliant, too.

Rachael Wooding stars as Rose, and Joel Harper-Jackson as her husband Harry. Elizabeth Ayodele plays Joy with Samuel Jordan as her partner Jimmy, and Laura Pitt-Pulford takes on the role of Poppy. The way that all three generations are linked and their stories intertwined is beautiful, but we won’t give too much away.

We urge you to experience Standing at the Sky’s Edge for yourself, however, it’s worth noting that the musical contains scenes of physical violence, alcohol abuse, and death.

Buy Standing at the Sky's Edge tickets from £24 at LOVEtheatre

The RadioTimes.com Going Out team are lucky enough to experience some of the best London theatre shows, are you can read our Witness for the Prosecution review, The Hills of California review, 2:22 A Ghost Story review, An Enemy of the People review and Stranger Things: The First Shadow review.

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When and where can I see Standing at the Sky’s Edge?

The cast of Standing at the Sky's Edge in the West End Credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
The cast of Standing at the Sky's Edge. Brinkhoff-Moegenburg Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

As always with these fantastic new plays, Standing at the Sky’s Edge is performing for a limited time only at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

You can experience the musical from now until Saturday 3rd August 2024.

The Gillian Lynne Theatre is located in the capital city’s West End — on Drury Lane to be precise — and the nearest station is Leicester Square (for the Piccadilly and Northern lines).

Buy Standing at the Sky's Edge tickets from £24 at LOVEtheatre

If you're looking for more things to do in the capital city, be sure to check out The Moonwalkers with Tom Hanks, The Art of the Brick, and the Balloon Museum.

How to get Standing at the Sky’s Edge tickets

You can buy Standing at the Sky’s Edge tickets right now at LOVEtheatre from £24.

Buy Standing at the Sky's Edge tickets from £24 at LOVEtheatre


For more on theatre, take a look at how to get cheap theatre tickets and what's on at the Harold Pinter theatre.