Rob Madge is putting on a Disney parade. In this heart-warming show we meet the young Robert through old videos of the productions staged in their living room.
An intelligent and confident child, Madge graced the West End stage in Mary Poppins, Matilda, and Les Misérables. It is clear from the obsessive attention placed on these family shows (programmes, rehearsal schedules, that they were destined to head in front of the footlights.
To pinhole this show in a particular genre would be an injustice. It is a play about expression and tolerance. It is a musical, with songs which reach out to queer children anywhere, as step by step their lyrics comment on the actor’s childhood.
It is a memoir, with the grown Rob looking back on their younger self, sometimes lip-synching words, always listening and remembering. Born in 1996, Madge has always lived in a world where it was easy to capture moments of life. Even before they were born, a video was made of their parents talking to “Charlie”, whatever they would turn out to be.
My Son’s A Queer is very funny in places but will touch your heart in others. A constant use of props mirror the items young Robert uses in the shows as they appear on screen. A set of puppets. A coveted Belle yellow dress. A wool wig. A small schoolbag.
With supportive parents and grandparents who clearly loved and valued this child, Madge developed a world in their own imagination and in the “interpretative play area” at school. Yet school reports suggest this is a problem, that conforming is more important than searching out who you are.
My Son’s A Queer is a plea for inclusion and understanding, noting that both children and adults can be cruel and thoughtless. There is not a moment in this show which is wasted. Madge, who wrote the play, and co-wrote the songs with Pippa Cleary, is a lively and confident performer.
Wildly camp yet sensitive to their younger self, you will find them gleeful on a glittery runway as well as recounting awkwardness with the gender segregation in the Disney store. A beautiful performance which rejects the binary segregation into which they were born and asks why a small boy cannot be the Belle of the ball.
Directed by Luke Sheppard, My Son’s A Queer is running at the Turbine Theatre until 17th July – tickets here: https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/whats-on/my-sons-a-queer
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 25th June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★