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Ignore inspiring Beryl at your peril.

I'D never heard of Beryl Burton until I got this job", said an actor half in character on stage.

A tongue in cheek remark, it was this exact lack of current public knowledge about Britain's greatest female cyclist that inspired the first ever full length production about her life, which was performed at Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Written by renowned Bolton actress Maxine Peake (inset), Beryl delved into the life of the extraordinary working class Morley woman, who claimed somewhere in the region of 100 national and international trophies and set a national record that has not been beaten by another woman to this day.

It was the on-stage Kraftwerk soundtrack that set the tone for the engrossing, heart-thumping and accurate docudrama, with sharp wit as fast as Beryl's (nee Charnock) pace.

Only four multi role-playing actors were needed to tell her tale, which saw her rise from a young child who suffered from rheumatic fever and heart problems.

The appropriately-named Samantha Power shines in the exhausting role of Beryl, in which she travelled around Review Production: Beryl by Maxine Peake Venue: Lawrence Batley Review: Chloe Glover ....

10km during the play on one of four bikes attached to a turbo trainer.

She captured the stubborn and dedicated nature of the cyclist through her energetic performance, which begins when Beryl first meets her future husband, Charlie Burton on a stage daubed in bike parts that served during the scenes as an office, home, farm and race track.

A mixture of pictures and rolling film to enable the audience to watch her train on the country roads and compete adds to the setting and enables them to feel like they are travelling on her successful journey with her.

Lee Toomes captures the selfless and supportive spirit of Charlie with his kindly and hearty demeanour. He encourages her to become a member of Morley Cycle Club and sacrifices his own cycling to travel with her around Britain and abroad to competitions.

Meanwhile Shameless child star Rebecca Ryan captures the undying competitive streak of Beryl at a young age, as well as taking on a comic role as Beryl's daughter and cyclist, Denise, who demonstrates the hurt felt by her when she faces the sharp edge of her mum's ambitious streak.

Matthew Ganley, takes on equally convincing roles such as her pushy trainer and narky police officer.

Through the whole play it is clear that Peake has gone above and beyond to research the life of this wonderful woman, who now hopefully can be re-entered into the annals of history as someone to be proud of for generations to come.

Let us hope that the play captures the attention of these younger people, who could be inspired by Beryl's story to follow their dreams, even if it means defying all the odds.


Samantha Power as |Beryl Burton in Maxine Peake's play, Beryl at Lawrence Batley Theatre

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Nov 26, 2015
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