Beryl at the Rose Theatre
Recently nominated in the Best New Play category at the Manchester Theatre Awards, the West Yorkshire Playhouse Production, Beryl, premieres in London at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. Beryl celebrates the life and career of cycling legend Beryl Burton. Written by BAFTA nominated actress Maxine Peake, the play is a tribute to a great athlete who broke six records in her cycling career, one of which still stands today.
Peake was inspired to write Beryl after reading a book about the cyclist, first producing it as a Radio 4 play, after which it was performed on-stage at the Grand Depart festival in Leeds. With post-modern and Brechtian elements, the play opens with four actors on bicycles, beginning the story of Beryl’s life from childhood on. Most of the action takes place on bicycles, the four actors play multiple roles, and a video screen as a backdrop produces a continuous stream of images creating a 1950s cinematic effect of speeding along country roads. Props also serve multiple functions, and the cast occasionally interacts with the audience. The Rose Theatre is a small venue with a design that creates a closeness and intimacy between audience and actors.
The performances are excellent: the role of Beryl is movingly played by Samantha Power (of Coronation Street, Little Britain and Shameless. Charlie, Beryl’s husband is Lee Toomes, and her daughter is played by Rebecca Ryan. Dominic Gately is particularly notable in his very humorous portrayal of several roles, including the Queen of England.
Beryl Burton was an astonishing athlete who would have received far more acclaim had she been a man. Her determination was unmatched and her successes remarkable, particularly her record gained in beating a male cycling champion in 1967 – a record that has not been surpassed to this day. With the support of her husband and daughter, this strong-willed Yorkshire woman defied serious illness and several accidents to become one of Britain’s top cyclists of all time.
An affectionate and very effective portrayal of the greatest woman on two wheels, Beryl concludes with the actors displaying on the stage the many dozens of trophies won by Burton during her lifetime. This compassionate homage impresses with an image of an extraordinary woman and athlete whose strength and determination make her an inspiring role model not only for female athletes, but for all women.
Beryl is on at the Rose Theatre from 8th until 19th March 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a video about Beryl Burton here: