Saturday, 7 November 2015
Presented by West Yorkshire Playhouse
By Maxine Peake
The Greatest Woman On Two Wheels
Maxine Peake’s witty, charming and critically acclaimed play celebrates the life of sporting legend Beryl Burton – the greatest woman on two wheels.
When Beryl Charnock met keen cyclist Charlie Burton she was smitten, not only with Charlie but by the thrill and freedom found on her bike. She would outwork the men in the rhubarb fields, she could outclass the cyclists on the road, and still find time to over-knit young Denise an enviable cycling jumper. With her husband, daughter and cycling club at her side she became five times world pursuit champion, 13 times national champion, twice road-racing world champion and made it home in time for dinner.
This was brilliant!
Four people on stage in tracksuits or lycra the whole time, who partly narrated the story to us and partly acted it out, swapping characters as needed. It was hilarious at times, like when one actress had to be the small child and reluctantly sit in a crate that was supposed to be the bike's sidecar and as they rode along she spun a wheel in her hand with a very sulky face! The tallest male actor also had us laughing when he wore a scarf and 'Dame Edna' glasses as the mother-in-law, also a tiara and white gloves as the queen and donned a small red hat and did the safety talk hands as the air hostess to show they were on a plane.
They all rode (static) bikes a lot throughout, mostly racing them fast, it must have been exhausting! Opening lines were something like "I'd never heard of Beryl Burton till I got this job" to which another actor replied "I didn't know what exercise was till I got this job".
This was a wonderful tribute to a sports hero that nobody seems to remember. She dominated women's cycling from 1955 to 1996. To be honest I don't think we would remember sportsmen as we do now if it wasn't for them appearing on quiz shows and reality tv. The cast were so obviously proud of Beryl and her utter determination to "make her mark" and that pride was contagious throughout the audience going by my feelings, my friends comments and those comments I overheard as we left the theatre.
And how funny that we only really booked this one because it was called "Beryl"!