Photo: Johan Persson

Standing at the Sky’s Edge is perhaps one the rarest and most precious commodities – it’s a genuinely excellent new British musical, something to be cherished whenever it appears. With songs by renowned singer songwriter Richard Hawley and a book by Chris Bush, its story is set in the iconic Park Hill estate which overlooks the city of Sheffield; recently redeveloped and with an entirely different demographic of people moving in, it’s a bold, beautiful and brilliant social commentary focusing on class and gentrification. Not only is it genuinely very interesting, it’s also surprisingly funny and wonderfully uplifting.

It doesn’t just tell one story – we are treated to three separate narratives playing out in parallel, although they all unfurl in the same apartment over several decades. We’re introduced to the initially-optimistic Rose and Harry, who are among the first residents to move into the new estate in the 1960s and want to set up the new life they’ve been promised; we meet Rose and Jimmy who want to spend the rest of their lives together, which will require overcoming numerous societal barriers; and we also hear the improbably posh Poppy’s story, keen to escape London and her ex Nikki, while clinging on to her Ocado orders and Ottolenghi recipes in unfamiliar new surroundings.

Each story is compelling and there are occasional, wonderful set pieces where they overlap – a particular favourite involved a bottle of Henderson’s Relish being passed between the various residents of the flat, as they each tried it for the first time over the years. That condiment is one of a handful of Sheffield references – there’s also an enjoyable nod to local gay bar Dempsey’s and a surprisingly funny football joke (yes, really!) – but for those unfamiliar with the steel city, fear not, the play’s themes and stories are universal and should resonate as much with a London audience as they will have done when it played in Sheffield.

We wouldn’t want to try to pick a favourite from the three tales this production tells, but we feel we should highlight the most modern story, which focuses on Poppy as one of the first people to move into the estate after it has been redeveloped. Looking to escape London and set up a new life for herself, along the way we meet her ex-girlfriend Nikki and the circle of friends she develops in her new home city. It’s rare to see a diversity of queer narratives play out on major stages, and rarer still to see ones that are so authentic and positive; it feels like a cause for celebration. More of this, please.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear, we adored our evening with Standing at the Sky’s Edge. It just gets so much right: we loved all the stories and characters, the songs are fantastic, the movement is extremely effective, and even clocking in at over two and a half hours it never feels like it overstays its welcome. It’s only here for a limited run – check it out while you can.

GAY TIMES gives Standing at the Sky’s Edge – 5/5

More information can be found here.