dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Maxine Peake puts cycling legend in the saddle
Beryl Burton was an extraordinary sportswoman who won national and international cycling championships over a 25 year period. But this two hour drama created by West Yorkshire Playhouse is no dry biopic of a cyclist made good.
Written by actress Maxine Peake, Beryl is packed full of action, comedy, warmth and there's a steely determination behind it to ensure Beryl receives the recognition she deserves.
While Beryl is centre stage, we also see her relationships with her devoted husband and daughter as well as with her fellow competitors. The cast of four successfully switch roles so the stage is filled with characters from shorts-clad classmates through to Queen Elizabeth II.
Peake shares the stage with the audience by creating characters who comment on the drama, on the story and on the play itself. She also ensures plenty of action so there is no time for the audience to switch off – blink and you'll miss something.
Directed by Rebecca Gatward and designed by Naomi Dawson, there is grittiness to the production and the set which resembles a giant bike shed. This sense of being totally down-to-earth is shared by the characters for whom the height of luxury is a three-wheel car.
The production was commissioned last year and played to full houses in Leeds before going on national tour this year.
Birmingham is the final date on the current tour which explains why the show feels so comfortable with itself.
Samantha Power, who has played Beryl both in Leeds and on tour, brings Beryl to life with all her charm and all her flaws – she is only too human a heroine.