Image Credit: West Yorkshire Playhouse
Beryl is a play about Beryl Burton, a legendary cyclist, who won numerous world and national championships. The characters played by John Elkington, Dominic Gately, Penny Layden and Chelsea Halfpenny narrated Beryl Burton's life from her childhood to the rise of stardom in becoming a world class cyclist. The audience was given a visual biography of the legend's professional and personal life where the actors role played the characters which were part of Beryl's exciting journey.
Beryl was written as a 2012 BBC Radio 4 play by the multi-talented Maxine Peake, This production, premiered at the end of June, is part of the 2014 Yorkshire Festival which celebrates 100 days of art and culture. The play directed by Rebecca Gatward with a talented team of designers, Naomi Dawson, David Holmes and Mic Pool. Great staging especially the video projections, designed by Mic Pool, which connects to Beryl's cycling life with snapshots of her riding with the Morley Cycling Club, the countryside roads and cycling championships. The lighting and props worked in harmony telling the story and the reenacting of the scenes.
The four characters summarised, in between scenes, Beryl's drive and determination from the introduction as a wife, a mother, a Yorkshire woman, and a cyclist to an evaluation of her characteristics as known as Yorkshire lass with her 'mind of her own' and that 'there was no stopping her' when she began pursuing her cycling career with vigorous competitiveness . With preconceived expectations, deep routed from her childhood, Beryl wanted to prove that she could do whatever she set her mind to and that she made her mark!
To many it's a mystery and surprise why Beryl Burton wasn't known until now. Even Sue, played excellently by Penny Layden, acknowledged that some of us have never heard of her until this play and that is she considered the greatest sports woman who ever lived. The other characters shared their admissions and their renewed enthusiasm to know more about the legend cyclist. There were some lovely features about cycling such as the definition of time trail known as 'The Race of Truth'.
This is an excellent play about Beryl Burton's cycling achievements and how they have inspired and empowered many especially women and their participation in competitive cycling. Since women's cycling was introduced in the 1984 Olympics, a considerable number of British Women have become Olympic Champions in cycling ranging from sprinting to
With the imminent Le Tour de France happening, the play links culturally to the high profile event and the celebrated Yorkshire Festival. An inspiring and empowering play worth seeing whether you're into cycling or not! There is something for someone! Beryl is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 19th July 2014 and tickets can be booked via their website.
Sources: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Beryl (by Maxine Peake) Playtext