Review: Beryl, by Maxine Peake, New Wolsey Theatre, until Saturday November 7
- Credit: Archant
Beryl is a brilliantly realised, fast-moving, inventive and touching story of the greatest British sportswoman you’ve never heard of. Beryl Burton was a competitive cyclist – a cyclist in the days before training regimes and high profile sponsorship deals.
Always strapped for cash, Beryl got to the top because she was an astonishingly determined individual and her achievements, catalogued during the course of this warmly human play, are staggering.
The fact that she is not better known is bewildering considering that she was runner up to Henry Cooper for the BBC’s Sports Person of the Year Award and her 12 hour time trial record, established in 1967, still stands today.
Beryl is played out against the backdrop of a cycle workshop which through audience imagination and acting silliness turns into houses, hospitals, school classrooms and international race tracks.
It’s a play which is delivered in a bravura style by four incredibly fit actors who spend half the play peddling on bicycles as they re-enact the highs and lows of Beryl’s life and career.
You may also want to watch:
Written by actress Maxine Peake, the play is delivered in a lively, almost conversational manner, as the actors frequently come out of character to question the meaning of cycling terms or to ridicule one another as they swap hats and dip in and out of a variety of different characters.
The actors make it clear they are presenting a play and quickly establish a warm dialogue with the audience. Director Rebecca Gatward keeps the action moving swiftly and uses tables, boxes, chairs, bags and all manner of cycling bric-brac to fashion props while the play hurtles towards its dénouement.
- 1 Matchday Recap: Town close out game to secure big win
- 2 Cook proud of players after Town hold on for elusive first win
- 3 Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich's 1-0 win at Lincoln
- 4 Ratings: How the Ipswich Town players performed in their 1-0 Lincoln win
- 5 Watch Town CEO Ashton wildly celebrate Lincoln win with Town fans
- 6 Lincoln City 0-1 Ipswich Town: Bonne does the business as Blues earn first win
- 7 Concerns as 12 Suffolk landfill sites could contain 'hazardous material'
- 8 The best roast dinners in Suffolk as chosen by our readers
- 9 Ipswich tech firm warns of spyware scare on Apple devices
- 10 Gangs of 'lampers' use spotlights to distract animals and kill them
But, for all its warm-hearted fun, Beryl is also a very touching story of a person who battled against herself and childhood illness to prove that she could make her mark on the world.
It’s also the story of Beryl’s husband and daughter Charlie and Denise who supported and encouraged her and had to cope with her obstinate single-mindedness.
The four actors Samantha Power, Lee Toomes, Rebecca Ryan and Matthew Ganley bring huge amounts of affection and energy to their multiple roles and by the end of the evening you are left with a feeling that you have just witnessed a labour of love.
A writer, director and a group of actors have wanted to share the story of an amazing sportswoman whose records still stand.
A serious contender for play of the year.