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'Supposed to be dead' former St Columb Minor actor tells story

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: March 16, 2014

  • Jean Lenton, David Faulkner and Stuart Ellison star in Cheat the Reaper

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A FORMER actor and director from St Columb Minor has written a play about his experiences after battling cancer – not once, but twice.

David Faulkner, 61, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2009 and, after undergoing a serious operation to remove the affected organ, doctors gave him a one-in-four chance of survival.

Against the odds Mr Faulkner pulled through, only to receive the devastating news two years later that he was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia and had only months to live.

But after responding well to treatment he has defied the odds again, and his cancer is now in remission.

While in an isolation ward at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, Mr Faulkner's consultant, Dr Bryson Pottinger, persuaded him to put pen to paper and write a story about his experience: the result, a play called Cheat The Reaper.

"My consultant told me I had to write my story down so people would remember, so I wrote it in play form and got a few actor-y buddies round to read the play, and they turned round and said, 'so when are we going to play it? – and that's how it all started," said Mr Faulkner.

He has lived in St Columb Minor for the past 27 years, having spent much of his working life touring Europe and the UK while starring in critically acclaimed productions such as Whose Life Is It Anyway and Pinocchio.

But since being diagnosed, Mr Faulkner said he was determined to raise awareness of the illness.

"There are lots of people who want to do something like running a marathon after what I've been through, but, physically, I'm not able to do anything except write down my experiences and put on this play," he said. The play is based on a true story of how extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people.

"Cheat The Reaper is a powerful, funny, courageous and honest story. It will make you laugh, cry and above all think," he said.

The play follows the inspirational journey of Kate and Tom Bradley, who have everything to live for.

But when Tom receives an unexpected phone call from hospital their lives are turned upside down.

"I've invented a family and, although it's my story, the whole play is told through the eyes of the wife and son – not the cancer sufferer, but from the perspective of the family who have to live with it," said Mr Faulkner.

The performance has a cast of just three actors – including himself. It aims to strike a chord with those directly affected by cancer, currently thought to be one in three of us. All proceeds will go to the Cornwall Leukaemia Trust.

"What's lovely is that they have zero administrative costs, so every penny gets spent on helping people like me," he said.

"Above all else I really, really hope we can get bums on seats and make a lot of money for a charity which is really dear to my heart."

Mr Faulkner said writing the play had been cathartic, and had helped to keep him going throughout his illnesses.

"I was in the clinic one day last year, and one of the consultants from haematology came up – he was the one who gave me my first diagnosis – and he said, 'hello, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be dead', and I just thought that was brilliant," he said.

Cheat The Reaper is being staged from March 15 to May 10 at venues across Cornwall, including at Newquay's Lane theatre on March 21 to 22.

For details call 01726 879500.

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