This year I was lucky enough to see dozens of beautiful LGBTQ+ theatre pieces. From small fringe plays with the only set of scenography being a revolving bed, or monologues touching the topic of racism in gay culture, to a fairytale-like production showcasing neurodiversity in the queer community.
In their first own West End show, Rob Madge managed to create an extremely personal story that hits all the right notes on yet another emotional level. Doesn't matter where on the sexuality spectrum you sit - as a human being, this little childhood story will hit you right in the feels. "My Son's a Queer" is all about being unapologetically yourself and feeling supported by your loved ones - something all of us can relate to.
It’s a monologue that wraps around your aching soul like a blanket and warms you up on the inside. It brought back the detailed memories of the times when I watched a Disney movie for the first time at home, on a VHS (VHS cassettes and recordings are a huge theme here, btw).
If there’s anything good that came out of the lockdowns, it’s this production. Madge have achieved their TikTok fame during the lockdown – and I, being completely absent on TikTok, only got to know who they are while watching the “Millennials” Musical in The Other Palace (where they did a fabulous job, despite the limited stage time).
Madge dag out their old VHS recordings from a forgotten storage during the long, boring days of the pandemic, and shared snippets of them online. Hundreds of people responded with their memories of ’90s living room Disney parades of bedroom theatre pieces. And that’s how the idea for the show emerged.
You could say that it’s a story of a child’s dream. Madge impresses with their memory of little family moments when as a kid, they express huge love for Disney characters and stage their own Disney parade in the living room.
The show is structured in a way that we follow, one by one, 7 steps to stage such an event – starting from creating a costume, to finding a muse. Each stage is a moment filled with jokes, little joy moments, and any issues that you may need to overcome, accompanied by catchy, classically musical-style songs composed by Pippa Cleary (In the Willows, The Great British Bake Off Musical). “Anything is possible”, with its positive, energetic beat became my daily commute-time tune, and “Pied Piper”, a song that made me cry with laughter, is still my absolute favourite from the show.
Madge’s natural joy and over-the-top style sprinkled with layers of sass and puns propel the production’s tempo and energy onto an impressively high level. Even though we stay in one room the whole time – a charmingly staged 90s living room set designed by Ryan Dawson Laight, we also move from time and space thanks to a large projection screen in the middle of the stage. I have to say, I was quite impressed at the quality of VHS recordings – they looked decent displayed on a large screen, something I kind of expected to fail from a technical point of view.
“My Son’s a Queer” builds a lot of unexpected connections and creates a surprisingly empowering story. LGBTQ+ theatre tends to have a lot of pain and blame included – yet Madge doesn’t point fingers, doesn’t accuse anyone for ruining their life or discouraging them to be themselves – in the most dramatic of moments, they just go quiet. And that’s all it takes to build the emotional layer of the production – sometimes sudden silence is more powerful than a scream.
“My Son’s a Queer” came highly recommended after this year’s Edinburgh Fringe run – and it did not disappoint. I’m generally not easily moved by shows, but I had my tissues ready for this one, and thank Goddess – by the end of the performance my face was in a teary mess. Thank you, Rob Madge, for making me feel like a child again. That’s precious.