The next interview in our stagey chat series is with the sensational cast of a musical that's just found its home in London's West End, Standing at the Sky's Edge. We sat down with Mel Lowe (who plays Connie), Alastair Natkiel (who plays Marcus), Baker Mukasa (who plays George) and Laura Pitt-Pulford (who plays Poppy). Standing at the Sky's Edge is playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre now.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Thank you for chatting to Stage to Page today. For anyone that doesn't know, can you tell us about the story and the characters that you play? And how does it feel to finally be open in the West End?

Mel: The show that we're doing, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, is based on the Park Hill Estate and I guess, in a few words, it's about love, hope and what home means. And we follow three different timelines of people who live in one specific flat on the Park Hill Estate. We follow these three timelines and how those timelines intertwine or don't. The character I play is Connie and she is sort of the narrating character, slash the quiet anchor,  and I guess the string that kind of weaves things together

Alastair: We've got the three timelines that run through the show; the 60's couple that move in, then the 80s' family that move in, then a modern day storyline of a woman that moves up from London in 2015 to kind of escape her life there. I play Marcus, who is a work colleague of Poppy's, who then befriends her.

Laura: We're looking forward to having the show open now and you know, the pressure of opening night being done…so come and see us. The build up is so full on. 

Baker: I transferred over and it's been lovely to be reunited with such beautiful and lovely people. It's a story that we just love sharing. What's nice is having new people in it and it changes the spirit automatically and then you get to rediscover something you knew really well, but in a different context.

How was the rehearsal process for you?

Mel: It was really magical. We have some of the loveliest people I've genuinely met. Rob Hastie, our director is incredible; so warm and made this process. Especially when you're remounting a show that's already existed, I've never done anything like that before personally so it was a thought in the back of my mind: “how is it going to work? what is it going to look like?” It was really great that we had so much freedom and not doing an exact carbon copy of what has been done before. I think when you're telling a story about community, to have your own little community on stage - what more could you ask for really? Chris (Bush), our writer, makes any actor's job a breeze, to say her words every night is a true gift.

Laura: Quick. We really quickly bonded as a cast and it doesn't always happen. We bonded immediately and it really really helps because you feel very safe in the room to play, to make mistakes and you pick things up quicker when you're in that spirit. It was a fun rehearsal process and we made lots of progress.

Baker: It's nice doing something where you can just let the piece do the work and not feel like you have to put loads on it to make it work. With something like this, the less you do, the better it seems and it's such a privilege to be doing, and re-rehearsing it has been so much fun.

What's your favourite part of the show?

Mel: That is a good question. I'm trying to think of what to say that's not a spoiler. ‘After the Rain’ that Rachael Wooding sings - the first time I heard that in rehearsals - oh my days, so magical. I get to watch it every night and it's just beautiful. And the ending when we're all singing together on stage, it's a real moment of hope...I hope.

Regardless of gender and age, which other role would you like to play in the show and why?

Mel: Ooo, it's hard. I think the songs that Harry has in this show are good. I honestly couldn't put it down to one, there's so many.

Laura: Joy for me. Joy or Jimmy. There's some beautiful storytelling in there and some guttural material to work with. I feel very strongly for that storyline, it's very moving.

Baker: I would be either Jimmy or Rose. Jimmy because I just love ‘Midnight Train’. And Rose's journey is herculean in this. As a character, the material she's dealing with and the emotional rollercoaster of it - that role is just an actor's dream.

What excites you most about this production?

Alastair: Just being here in the West End and seeing the posters everywhere, and on the tube - it's been a real journey for me. And it's been the most amazing job of my career, really. It's just very exciting to have been with something from the start. What's really special about this show is that there are real people who live in Park Hill who we've talked to about this and one woman I spoke to said, "it's like watching my life on a stage". Ultimately, it's just a group of characters that you care about, it doesn't matter where they are. 

I did it originally in 2019 in Sheffield, and again in Sheffield in ‘22 into 23, and did the National as well, and I'm now here. It's been a hell of a journey. And I actually did the very first workshop for the show in 2015 when it was a different script and a different writer. It's been in the works for a long, long time and then they changed what they wanted to do with it, so I didn't have any more involvement until we did the production in 2019. But it's pretty amazing to have done a week-long workshop for a new show in 2015, and then do the show 3 times and now be in the West End with it.

We are called Stage to Page, but if you could turn any book from page to stage, what would it be?

Mel: I have a few. There's a book called 'Hold' by Michael Donkor and it's a brilliant coming-of-age novel about family, shame and forgiveness. It would be really interesting as a play that would split the stage in half, or some sort of revolve for when people are in different locations. It's a really beautiful story of friendship. I'm also reading ‘Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon at the moment, and it's really fantastical. But now they've done something like Stranger Things on stage, anything can happen in terms of the sheer level of technicality and magic - so why not?

Alastair: I always thought ‘One Day’ (by David Nicholls) would make a brilliant show; either as a play or as a musical. Again, it travels across a long stretch of time. A lot of my favourite books, like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird' have already become stage shows, but I do think ‘One Day’ would work really nicely.

Laura: Ooo, that's really hard. One of my favourite books is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ (by Khaled Hosseini) but I think that may be more suited to film. It might be too big for the stage, but we could give it a good go.

Baker: There's a book by James Baldwin called ‘Another Country’, which I really love. Or ‘Giovanni's Room’ - it's really beautiful. Anything of his as he's so poetic as a writer and has such a beautiful mood and depth. They're devastating and heart-breaking, but also uplifting.

And finally, why should people book tickets to see Standing at the Sky’s Edge?

Mel: It's not like other things that are out there; it's not like every other musical that you've ever seen. We have a real USP in that it’s incredible musicality, songs and the hope that you feel like you're at a rock concert, coupled with an incredible play that has been written by Chris Bush. Those two things together make for a really brilliant night. If you're in the market for wanting to feel community, and hope, and love, and a sense of belonging - I think this is for you - so book your tickets.

Alastair: It's just a very special show. You'll go on an emotional rollercoaster with it and really connect to the people and the stories, and what happens to them. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love the music. The idea for the show was for it to feel like a cross between a play, a musical and a gig. If you like any of those three things, there's going to be something to like. It's got a real wide-reaching appeal to lots of people.

Baker: I genuinely think there's nothing else like it. I think it's very unique in all elements. Every element really works. The craftsmanship to make something like this is gargantuan and I think for every element of a musical to be this good is very very rare. It's an ode to an art form and I think that's something that will keep it afloat for a long time.

Laura: It is really accessible. Even if you're not a musicals fan, this is the musical you should come and see. And if you love musicals? Also amazing, you should come and see it. I always base it on my godfather (not the godfather), he's not a massive musicals fan so I always judge something by him - and I know he would love every second of this. I think it is really universal and we love to see ourselves reflected back at us and there's no way you could come and see this show and not see a segment of yourself in the characters. This will somehow affect you, and you will laugh so hard, but you will also cry so hard.

You can buy tickets to see Standing at the Sky's Edge at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, here.

Interview by Sarah Jayne Vazquez

 **photography by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg**

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