The Eulogy of Toby Peach takes us through a day-by-day blow of the actor’s battle with cancer. Hardly a source of entertainment I hear you say. Well, true, but the shows primary aim is to blast the final taboos around the Big C, and Peach- an all-round nice guy- does this with a mixture of facts, stats., and comedy.
Peach lays out the experience of diagnosis through to recovery and back into relapse with a light-heartedness that eschews the darkness of his disease. He even aims for raucous comedy at times, taking us through the process of preserving his sperm when his fertility is at threat.
For all the admirable aims of this piece- raising awareness of a rare form of cancer and praising the work of the NHS- the tone doesn’t quite ring true. The moments of comedy feel restrained by the moments of high drama, and the whole piece risks falling flat or veering towards melodrama.
The problem with this show is that the story is draped over a thin theatrical framework. I absolutely understand that he is using his own life story as a means to create theatre, but at least create something theatrical. It’s not that the monologue format is tired, but Peach himself seemed to be simply going through the motions of performance, at times he seems to be recounting information rather than inhabiting the memories.
I’m aware that I’m being hugely critical and almost feel the need to apologise, but then wouldn’t that defeat the object of a show such as this, which is to debunk any last taboos around cancer? For all my gripes I wouldn’t deter audiences from seeing the show; it is informative and heart warming, if not theatrically riveting. The audience I saw it with were quite affected by the subject matter, and the show cannot but help raise awareness of the reality of living through and surviving cancer.