Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The Eulogy of Toby Peach, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Sally Stott.
Toby looks and acts like a superhero. He’s fit, healthy with the kind of “bring it on” attitude that makes him seem immortal. However, when he was 20 he was diagnosed with cancer. Through his imaginative and surprisingly upbeat one-man show, he gives an honest, informative and, indeed, humorous account of his treatment, remission and what he had to go through in hospital.
There are many shows at this year’s Fringe dealing with mortality, but it’s rare to find one delivered in such an impressively pragmatic and matter-of-fact way, least of all by someone who has directly experienced what must have been a very emotional time.
Welcome to “The Cancer Club”, we’re told at the start, a 1970s-style nightclub of disco lights, a stem cell machine and chemotherapy cocktails. Here, Toby dons a pair of Ray-Ban shades and gives us a dispassionate low-down on the kind of drugs that, if you’re lucky, have relatively few side effects and, if you’re not, “feel like death”. But he’s the kind of person who shouts “Bish, bash, bosh” and downs his poisonous medicine like shots – which, in the fantastical world of the show, is exactly how it’s presented.
His defiance only falters towards the end when, after a series of unsuccessful treatments, he is presented with some horrendous sounding chemicals to drink and the very real prospect that he might die.
But as he relives this experience, encouraging us to cheer him on as he downs glass after glass of toxic liquid, it’s a triumphant celebration of an inspirational man’s determination to survive. He’s only here now, he explains, because of the £50,000 we, as taxpayers, have given for his treatment. And at a time of government cuts, his final “thank you” is made especially poignant.
Underbelly (Venue 61) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 18 August 2015
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