Comedian turns cancer battles into comedy play

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A YOUNG performer who had beaten cancer twice by the time he was 21 is to turn his battles into a comedy play at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

Toby Peach will be creating his own “eulogy” out of his three-year fight against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after winning a prestigious slot for new theatre work at one of the biggest Fringe venues this summer.

The 26-year-old, whose cancer has been in remission for four years, promises to take audiences on a “discovery of self-mortality” in his Underbelly show.

Mr Peach says it will tackle the impact of a blood cancer diagnosis in a “refreshing, insightful and humorous way.”

Publicity material will urge audiences to join him in “the (not so) exclusive Cancer Club, sample chemotherapy cocktails and select the perfect funeral playlist”.

London-based Mr Peach has developed the play with the Old Vic theatre in London, where Hollywood star Kevin Spacey has just stepped down as artistic director. Originally conceived as a short story, it was instead pitched as an interactive solo show for an awards scheme run by Underbelly and arts charity IdeasTap.

He said the show, The Eulogy of Toby Peach, had been drawn from a “fascination with the science of the disease that nearly killed me,” but insisted it would also be “a celebration of life.”

Mr Peach, who was told he had cancer when aged 19 and 21, said: “I started working on the story about a year ago, which was the first time I’d decided to write about my experiences. I found it really interesting, people I knew were very positive about what I was discussing and I just carried on writing. I hadn’t planned to perform anything myself initially. A lot of people don’t want to discuss having cancer and just want to move on.

“But I got quite interested in the whole science of cancer and also the things that had saved my life. I decided to 
really explore exactly what it was that had actually happened to me.”

Mr Peach underwent chemotherapy for three months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when a tumour in his neck was discovered while he was at drama school in Essex.

He added: “There are obviously dark elements as the show is talking about a very serious subject, but I know I have to make that world accessible to people. There is a lot of humour in it.”