When embarking on this project, Toby Peach's ultimate goal was to raise awareness of cancer and draw attention to the high quality of work carried out by an increasingly maligned NHS. He's currently four years in remission and it's moving to contemplate what would have become of the 26-year-old had he been deprived of free health care. Unlikely as it sounds, the gravitas this thought carries is ultimately to The Eulogy of Toby Peach's detriment.
As things stand, one in two of us will be affected by cancer at some point in our life. It's a charged subject, and one which guarantees tearful audiences. Indeed, this afternoon's crowd comes to resemble a support group as sniffling spectators circulate tissues from row to row and offer each other reassuring pats on the back. Peach reduces us to a sobbing mass, but largely as a result of his real life struggle. From a dramatic point of view, our emotions haven't quite been earned.
He's a confident performer whose writing is capable of reaching modest poetic heights, but his presence can best be described as endearingly wooden. This is especially evident during the instances when he attempts to enliven the show's narrative with clowning and audience interaction. The latter tends to involve Peach donning a pair of sunglasses and presenting himself as proprietor of The Cancer Club, a tacky, neon-lit drinking establishment. These scenes, along with one in which he assumes the character of a healing Willy Wonka, offer brave, original metaphor, but Peach's performance is too restrained to fully exploit their theatrical potential.