Review: My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? (Turbine Theatre)
Rob Madge's debut play has already sold out its premiere run
If you've been in any way engaged on ‘Theatre Twitter' over the past year and a bit, you will most likely be familiar with the name Rob Madge. After their Dad bought a video player to watch old family videos during lockdown, they discovered a whole archive of footage of young Rob putting on shows in their living room – from Mary Poppins to an entire Disney parade. It is this viral collection of videos that form the basis of Madge's solo show (which has just been extended at the Turbine Theatre due to a sold-out run).
With the small stage dressed as a living room where chests of drawers become stairs and a gold catwalk rolls out from under the armchair (design by Ryan Dawson Laight), director Luke Sheppard's production has Madge as a narrator, making witty comments at themselves on a screen, lip syncing to moments (the "Are you filming?" montage is particularly golden) and reenacting the things their younger self always wanted to do. It's a show full of self-reflection and celebration with stagey jokes galore. You know you've got your audience when they crack up laughing at a "Connie Fisher once said…" line.
If you think it all feels self-indulgent, then you'd be right, but Madge already knows it: "It sounds really self-indulgent? Correct" they say within the first five minutes, winking at the audience. If you've been watching the videos on Twitter then the first part may feel a bit like a "here's what you missed" catch-up, but that all falls away as the show zooms in (sometimes literally) on the real heart of it all – the love and support of Madge's parents and extended family. The show explores early relationships to queerness ("why does it have to be a choice of two?" in relation to wanting a Belle dress rather than a Beast costume), and early influences who tried to squash Madge's love for the stage, but ultimately it is their family's unwavering support that allowed them to be the performer full of pride they are today. From dressing up as Tinkerbell to building a puppet theatre and always being supportive of their queer child, Jon and Jan are undeniably the unseen stars of the show.
Madge is a transfixing performer. As soon as they say cheerily say "hiya!" you're immediately on their side and know you're in capable hands. Madge's comedic timing is down pat, their manner formed of a mixture of references from old-school greats like Wood and Walters to the social media meme culture of today. It's this blending of styles which means the show is a winner for all age groups. The interspersed songs (created by Madge and Pippa Cleary) are also a delight.
This is a gorgeous celebration of what it's like to grow up queer with a supportive family – something that needs to be seen more on stage. It will have you laugh, shed a tear and make you remember the magic that once took place in your childhood living room.