Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels by Maxine Peake

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 27 November 2012
Beryl Burton (1937-1996) dominated the world of British cycling.  In the course of a fifty-year career she won seven world titles and ninety-six national titles.  Despite her success, she remained an amateur throughout her career, supervised her own training, and raced prodigious distances almost every week.  When asked why she continued her career well into the 1980s and 1990s, she replied simply: "Because I like cycling."  She died of a heart attack in the saddle.
Maxine Peake's drama suggested that there were two main reasons why Burton (played by Peake herself) continued for so long; her iron self-determination, and her rock-solid marriage to fellow cyclist Charlie (Mark Jordon), whom she had met as a seventeen-year-old in a Leeds factory, when he had been wearing cycling shoes.
Needless to say such success did come at a price; in spite of her determination to lead as normal a life as possible, Beryl had a difficult relationship with daughter Denise (Sophie Downham), who became a cyclist herself.  The two of them almost came to blows after one race - which Denise won - when her mother accused her of not being sufficiently professional in her technique.
Justine Potter's production vividly created the world of British cycling in the 1950s and 1960s, when everyone rode for pleasure, and travelled around the country from race to race: the Burtons used to pile everything into a three-wheeled Reliant Robin, which frequently refused to start due to the combined weight of people and machines.  Beryl herself came across as a dedicated person, who inspired great love in her family: the real Charlie Burton (now in his 80s) and daughter Denise offered their reminiscences, forming a counterpoint to the drama taking place.
A charming production, succinctly written and performed with great conviction by Peake and her fellow-performers.