Beryl - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5

Showing from - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 through till Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lawrence Batley Theatre - Huddersfield

Louise Halliwell | Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beryl reviewed by Louise Halliwell on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 for Downstage CentreYorkshire grit: Samantha Power in the titular role of 'Beryl' at the Lawrence Batley Theatre

Beryl is the story of unsung sporting hero Beryl Burton and I am ashamed to say that until last night I’d never heard of her, despite living approximately 5 miles down the road from her hometown of Morley, West Yorkshire.

 

The play by Maxine Peake charts Beryl’s unlikely story from being advised at a young age not to exert herself due to heart related medical problems, to her success as arguably one of the greatest women cyclists the UK has ever seen.

Samantha Power did an excellent job of portraying Beryl with her signature Yorkshire grit, steeliness and determination to succeed

Beryl started her career in cycling in the 1950’s. This was a time when there was little or no funding for women’s cycling, indeed women’s cycling didn’t become an Olympic sport until the 1980’s.  Her training involved working on a farm during the day to improve her strength and stamina, going out with the local cycling club on an evening and making her way to events on her bike (they didn’t have a car).  It’s staggering to think that some of her records still stand to this day, despite the modern advances in technology, sports nutrition and professional coaches that support today’s cycling teams.

 

It’s even harder to believe that Beryl’s efforts and records went largely unnoticed by press and media until much later in her career.

 

Determination

The small cast delivered a good range of characterisation, each having multiple parts to play. Samantha Power did an excellent job of portraying Beryl with her signature Yorkshire grit, steeliness and determination to succeed.  The cast worked well together and the audience really sensed this rapport. I can only imagine how fit the cast must be given the amount cycling they do throughout the production.  Power in particular must have spent at least half of the evening pedalling on a static bike and yet still managed to deliver a passionate, well rounded and energetic performance.

 

The production was littered with subtle and clever humour, which punctuated the script and ensured that it didn’t become too serious. Original film footage from Beryl’s races, coupled with slides and images of local newspapers from the time were projected onto the set providing a backdrop that supported the action, adding further depth and a sense of history to the story.  In fact, the audience were so drawn into the narrative that many applauded as the character won her races despite it not being a natural point in the production to do so.

 

Triumph

Beryl is a story of triumph against the odds.  This is a woman who had the passion and drive to get to the top of her profession – and then just kept going when she got there.  However, the play also shows a human, family side to the sporting hero and the sacrifices and trade-offs made along the way.

 

An excellent script and great performances by all involved in this production make this a play not to be missed.  For me, it was also a wonderful opportunity to learn about a relatively un-sung local legend. The production of Beryl is currently on tour, and it is most definitely a ‘must see’.


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Production Information


Theatre: Lawrence Batley Theatre

Showing Until: Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Production Company: A West Yorkshire Playhouse Production

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