BWW Interview: Chris Bush Talks STANDING AT THE SKY'S EDGE at the Crucible Theatre
Chris Bush is an award-winning British playwright. Previous projects include TONY! The Blair Musical, Pericles and The Assassination of Katie Hopkins.
She speaks to BroadwayWorld about her newest work, Standing at the Sky's Edge.
What can you remember about your first trip to the theatre?
I'm not sure what the first ever show I saw was, but I do have hazy memories of a deeply traumatic 'children's' show that involved a baby whale getting trapped under a sheet of ice. I recall being inconsolable at the time.
What or who inspired you to become a playwright?
My parents definitely installed a love of theatre in me from an early age, and growing up in Sheffield under the reign of Michael Grandage was a great introduction to the form.
Now, there are so many people in the industry I love and admire, some of whom I'm lucky enough to call colleagues; Caryl Churchill, Lyndsey Turner, Alice Birch, Tamara Harvey, Emily Lim, Kate Wasserberg and Rebecca Frecknall are just a small handful who spring to mind.
What is Standing at the Sky's Edge about?
Standing at the Sky's Edge tells the story of Sheffield's Park Hill estate, from 1960 to the present day. Through that, it also becomes the story of the city, a story of post-war Britain, and, most importantly, a story of belonging, and who gets to call somewhere home.
Why did you decide to write it?
I can't actually take any credit for the idea - that initially came from our producer, Rupert Lord. I was approached to tell the story of Park Hill through the music of Richard Hawley, and I knew immediately that could be a killer combination.
How has your background fed into the piece's Sheffield setting?
I think being from Sheffield does help - it's not just about local knowledge or having a grasp of the dialect, it's more about feeling a deep connection and love for this city, and hoping that comes across.
How are rehearsals going?
Brilliantly! Although you always want a little more time...
How does your approach differ when writing a play or a musical? Similarly, adapting a piece compared to something brand new?
I try not to think about musicals and plays too differently. That said, normally I write lyrics too, so taking Richard's pre-existing songs as a starting point and trying to figure out how to best serve them through the narrative has been a new experience.
We've been talking about this project as less of a traditional book musical, and more of a play and a gig that happen at the same time. If we crack that, it feels like we're onto something really exciting.
How did you handle controversy around your award-winning musical, The Assassination of Katie Hopkins?
I wish I could say I ignored it entirely, but I probably spent far too much time online trying to find out what people were saying about us.
Ultimately though, we just had to trust that the piece would speak for itself - anything we had to say, we were saying in the theatre, not on social media.
You featured on our Top 100 People to Follow on Twitter list. What's your favourite thing about theatre Twitter?
I love Twitter, and it's absolutely my preferred form of procrastination. At its best (which it often isn't) it can foster a real sense of community, and I definitely now have a number of real-life theatre friends who started off as Twitter acquaintances.
Any projects coming up in the future you can tell us about? Any other mammoth 200-strong cast projects, like Pericles?
There isn't much I can talk about right now, but 2020 is shaping up to be a very busy year, with projects of hugely different scales. I'm not sure if I'll quite break the 200 mark again though.
Any advice for aspiring playwrights?
See as much as you practically can. Listen closely to feedback, but take it with a pinch of salt. Don't waste your time writing anything you don't care about - don't try and second-guess what your audience might want to see. If you're passionate about the story you're telling, that will come across in your writing.
Why should people come to Standing at the Sky's Edge?
Because it's a beautiful, human story about home and hope, scored by one of our greatest living songwriters.
Standing at the Sky's Edge at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield 15 March-6 April
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Photo credit: Chris Saunders