Sheffield Crucible Theatre at 50: new show involves Crucible, Lyceum and Studio and Standing at the Sky's Edge is back
Sheffield Theatres are creating a ‘mad adventure’ to celebrate the Crucible’s 50th anniversary – one cast will appear in three shows at once on three stages.
Popular musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge will also make a welcome return to the theatre where it was created, said Sheffield Theatres artistic director Rob Hastie.
Rock/Paper/Scissors is a trilogy of plays by Sheffield-born writer Chris Bush, who also wrote Standing at the Sky’s Edge. They tell the story of the city’s oldest scissor manufacturer and a fight to shape its future between different generations of the family.
All three shows will run at the same time (June 14-July 2). Actors will dash between the Crucible main stage, Crucible Studio and Lyceum, explained Rob.
"We decided really early on when looking at the 50th anniversary that the work would be the celebration. We planned a year that demonstrated our ambition, our breadth and our variety.
“We wanted at least one moment that felt like a mad adventure, pushing ourselves to do something completely new.
“The big thing in the middle of the year is a way of bringing together all three theatres. Each is completely magical in their own way – they are completely different spaces and everyone has their favourites.
“As part of the 50th anniversary of the Crucible, we wanted to highlight the whole of our very lovely complex of theatres. We wanted to make something that connected all three very different sides of Tudor Square.
“We started talking about the kinds of experiments that Alan Ayckbourn had done in his theatre. He had actors going between theatres during the show.
"To my knowledge, Alan Ayckbourn has only attempted it with two theatres. We think this is the first time three has been attempted.
"There are three plays, each stand-alone and each separate, that share a cast and happen simultaneously. When the characters exit the Studio, rather than sitting in the dressing room they are entering on stage in the Lyceum or Crucible.
"There will be a lot of fit actors sprinting across Tudor Square to make the timing work! It’s complete madness and a massive experiment.”
When can you see Standing at the Sky’s Edge at the Crucible?
Rob said that Standing at the Sky’s Edge is the Crucible show that people have been most keen to see again and ask when it’s going to return.
The show tells the story of people living in Park Hill flats at different times in its history, interwoven with the iconic songs of Sheffield musician Richard Hawley. It was due for a second run last year after its premiere in 2019 but that was halted by the pandemic.
Instead it will round off the celebrations at Christmas 2022, running from December 10 to Januiary 21, before heading for a season at the National Theatre in London.
Rob said of today’s anniversary: “The Crucible has always looked forward. I’m personally inspired by the vision of the people who brought the Crucible into being – Colin George, the architect Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who not only created the buildings and spaces but created the work to go into those spaces.
"There was a huge cast of characters – the council and city and builders and craftspeople who made it and the audiences who converted scepticism to enthusiasm really quickly.
"It’s a period just before I was born – that’s often the bit of history you see least clearly. I’ve done a lot of reading and digging into the archives and talking to people to get a picture of what the theatre world was like and what the arts scene in Sheffield was like and what they had to overcome.
"It was a bold new kind of theatre space, challenging expectations and founded on radical theatre. It’s a space that made the most exciting theatre.”
He added: “The thrust stage is now accepted as a brilliant way to make theatre. You’ve got examples all over the country and the world. The Crucible is the best example of that. It still feels like a space where you can make new things happen which is not like any other theatre I have been in.
“In recent years it’s been work that’s completely new that we’ve made in that space, taking audiences on a different journey. Those shows include Life of Pi, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Standing at the Sky’s Edge.
What is the Crucible Christmas musical?
"They’re very, very different shows linked only by their ambition. All of them have kept audiences engaged and they are all going on to other theatres. They don’t just exist in the Crucible.”
Life of Pi is about to start a West End run and Jamie has conquered the West End, gone on national and international tours and has now made it to the big screen.
He is currently rehearsing the cast of this year’s Crucible Christmas musical, She Loves Me, on from December 11 to January 15. It sees the return of Alex Young, who also starred in Guys and Dolls and Sky’s Edge.
Rob says that the story of two antagonistic perfume store workmates who don’t realise they are writing anonymous love letters to each other is an undiscovered gem.
Rob said: “It’s always a big show, always a highlight of the year. Christmas is a very busy time with three theatres and the Lyceum is a wonderful space as well.
"Putting on a children’s show in the Studio, a musical in the Crucible and a panto in the Lyceum is a big undertaking.
What’s the Crucible anniversary shows line-up?
"We know it’s when we engage with the largest number of people and the largest number of first-time audience members. For most people, going to a panto or being taken to a Christmas show when they are little is their first time in a theatre. It’s the time when whole families will come to the theatre together.”
He’s promising “entertaining, Christmassy joy”. This year’s panto is Sleeping Beauty (December 3-January 3) and ever-popular Dame Damian Williams will be joined by Benidorm star Janine Duvitski.
Children's show The Pixie and the Pudding (December 11-January 2) is based on a Scandinavian folk tale, featuring puppets and music.
Other highlights include an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina (February 5-26), two climate change plays The Contingency Plan – Resilience and On The Beach (March 11-April 2), Hoe a City Can Change the World, featuring Sheffield People’s Theatre (August 3-6), Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, featuring disability-inclusive theatre company Ramps on the Moon (September 9-24), the Together Season Festival, featuring local talent (October 20-29).
Crucible Studio shows will be Human Nurture, which will involve local schools (January 26-February 12), Far Gone, John Rwothomack’s moving story of a child soldier (February 17-26) and Dario Fo’s classic political farce Accidental Death of an Anarchist (September 23-October 15).
Tickets can be booked through the box office in person, over the phone on 0114 249 6000 or at sheffieldtheatres.co.uk