Socialist Worker

Beryl—the story of an outstanding cyclist that needs to be told

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2678

Record winner Beryl Burton

Beryl—a well deserved corrective


Beryl Burton deserves far more attention.

That’s true, and it’s the point of departure for Maxine Peake’s play about the all-conquering cyclist.

Burton is the most successful British cyclist of all time.

But she’s relegated to a footnote in the history books when compared to male cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish or Tom Simpson.

Burton won two world road race championships, dozens of world track cycling championships and national competitions.

She was rated the best female all-round time trialist—racing against the clock—in Britain 25 years in a row.

And Burton held the female 12-hour record for 50 years—a record that held against male competitors for two years as well.

Simply competing across such a wide variety of disciplines at the highest level is rare. To compete and win so many times is outstanding.

This play is a well-deserved corrective to the silence surrounding Burton’s glittering career.

A sort of documentary piece of theatre, it delivers on laughs. There are all the sharp one-liners and observations you’d expect from the playwright Peake.

The play also brings out the fierce determination that set Burton on the path to incredible success despite poverty and the advice of doctors.

Where the play falls is its restlessness. Is it a documentary, a comedy or an examination of the desperate depths people plumb to achieve remarkable exploits?

It’s a worthy celebration of a remarkable sportsperson.

Yet the choice of attempting to tackle Burton’s entire life in an hour-and-a-half play gives the whole thing a breathless sense of a story not fully told.

It’s a story that needs to be told nevertheless.

Beryl—At the Arcola theatre, London, until 16 Nov. Tickets from £15

Greenham Women ­Everywhere

ThIs exhibition showcases some original photographs, and also archival material, both visual and written, by people involved in the Greenham Common peace camp.

All set in a Greenham-inspired tent, this exhibition really allows you to get an intimate look at the sights and sounds of the camp.

On tour until 10 Dec. Go to greenhamwomeneverywhere.co.uk for details

Earthquakes in London

Meet three very different sisters—Jasmine, a rebellious teenager, Freya, a troubled pregnant woman, and Sarah, a passionate cabinet minister.

While the sisters navigate personal and political issues, their scientist father predicts apocalyptic climate change.

Sweeping back and forth through time from the 1960s to 2525, Mike Bartlett’s ambitious play focusing on climate change revels in its excess, lurching from hope to despair.

Bristol Old Vic, 7—16 Nov, Tickets from £15

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