Toby begins by racing through a history of his life in numbers - how many days he’s been alive (9424), how many minutes he has spent kissing (not enough), and how long it’s been since he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. Toby is young, energetic and instantly likeable, and the quick revelation is a punch in the stomach. Using comedy to tackle a difficult, important and personal subject, his eulogy is a sharp and original exploration of a young man’s journey with cancer, which has you laughing even as you feel a prick of tears.
The show is, for the most part, careful never to stray towards over-sentimentality or heart-tugging in any straightforward way.
The show is, for the most part, careful never to stray towards over-sentimentality or heart-tugging in any straightforward way. Instead, Toby’s story is coloured with self-deprecating humour; he sums up his diagnosis as being the fault of his ‘shite veins’. The structure of the script is clever: we are laughing, then pulled up short, then smiling again. Particularly imaginative is Toby’s initiation into the Cancer Club by a menacingly jovial MC serving chemotherapy cocktails - simultaneously funny and extremely uncomfortable.
Toby speaks directly to the audience in a way that feels genuine and warm. Occasionally his interactions take a while to work up a response, but by the time he is taking shots of drugs for treatment, the audience is out of their seats, cheering him on. As he remembers poignant personal moments and mocks the sheer incomprehensibility of his situation, he has the captivating awkwardness of a man completely thrown by the randomness of life’s dealings.
Don’t stay away for fear that the subject matter will be too heavy - it is navigated brilliantly. Intended to raise awareness of cancer and highlight the dangers of neglecting the vital importance of the NHS, Toby Peach delivers an insightful and inspiring comedy with something very important to say.