Men will wince (then laugh)
Seventy-year-old sports journalist Phil Gifford reels off his health crises in a rush, as if they’re of little importance – colitis diagnosed in 1984 which led to bowel cancer in 2012, two hip replacements, low-level skin cancer, and in 2008 prostate cancer.
Having been through the health system more than once prompted his 25th book – his first outside sports – with Looking after your Nuts and Bolts published in June for Men’s Health Month.
His GP Graeme Washer, one of the founders of the Men’s Health Trust, introduced Gifford to a range of specialists who gave interviews and then checked content. The book also includes first-person stories from, among others, yachting commentator Peter Montgomery who, although knowing he had prostate cancer, denied it for 3 months, and Mai FM announcer Nickson Clark, diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in his twenties.
Gifford, who wrote sketches for Billy T James and is music reviewer for North and South magazine, says that when his prostate cancer became public knowledge it was interesting to see the number of men his age sidle up to ask about it.
“Most want to know about the diagnostic blood test but specialists say there’s no substitute for a digital exam. I tell them it’s a one-horse race, a slight discomfort as opposed to … the alternative.
“I don’t think the average bloke will necessarily listen to a specialist but they will listen to another Kiwi guy who’s been through the same thing.”
Australian performer Daniel Tobias has turned his story of being diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer into a cabaret-like piece of theatre, complete with original songs and plenty of comedy.
“I got strength during my treatment hearing other people’s stories and I vowed to share mine and help others if I could,” he says. “For me, the sharing reminds me how fragile life is.”
But it took 10 years for Tobias to figure out how to tell the story with inspiration striking after seeing three stand-up comedians do “quite theatrical, story-telling” solo shows. “I liked the conversation they were having with the audience and the use of humour.”
He began pulling together a multi-talented team that included a choreographer, composer and a script consultant to help create his one-man show which owes a broad nod to cabaret.
“It was never going to be a sad thing,” Tobias says of The Orchid and The Crow, despite the theme. “I don’t want to be locked in a room for an hour hearing a sad story so I didn’t think anyone else would either.”
The story has a happy ending – Tobias is clear of the cancer and the last 15 years have been the best of his life, he says. “I’ve done extraordinary things and my dreams have come true – I’m touring the world performing my own work. But I’m also stuck with the human condition of sometimes taking things for granted.
“And then there’s being surrounded by advertising and marketing that constantly reminds me how crap I am so I have to work hard sometimes to fill my head with good thoughts.”
The Orchid & The Crow is on October 26 at 7pm; Phil Gifford appears on October 29 at 1pm. Tickets from Baycourt box office or Ticketek. See the full festival programme at www.taurangafestival.co.nz