The Eulogy of Toby Peach opens with time; time we have and haven't got; time that is wasted, enjoyed, found and lost to cancer – the terrible one-man show where you play all the parts, in his own words, though the show is wonderful, and others step in to play parts as needed. His younger self, on video; the nurses, doctors and scientists whose interventions sprang Peach from the Cancer Club; his partner and supporter whose constant, comforting presence is represented by an empty white chair; and the audience, one in two of whom will themselves develop cancer.
Peach, who contracted Hodgkin's Lymphoma at age 19, cheerfully explores the dark recesses of an early cancer diagnosis. Vomit, poison, pain and horror stalk his story. But there is also humour, humanity and, above all, hope under the dull metallic tang of chemical cocktails and the sickly smell of sherbet lemons.
Against the black horror of relapse, balloons, neon cocktail shakers and fragments of Willy Wonka and James and the Giant Peach make poor armour, but his open acceptance and decisive action is refreshing. Peach is neither victim nor conqueror of his disease. There is no battle against cancer here, no war. Instead illnesses and treatments are represented as a series of dull and terrible infidelities drawing him away from the world of the well; and his cure (for all its drama and death-dicing moments) is a series of logical steps – almost relaxations – into medical care and cure, each carefully footnoted with discoverer, cost, and thanks.
A post-show talk offers the opportunity to share experiences, recover with a glass of your favourite carcinogen, pick up reading list tips and celebrate the awesome advances in medical care which have brought us so far, and will take us further, in the long fight against cancer.