This award-winning play is a sparkling celebration of queer kids and supportive families
Joyous, poignant and packed full of universal life lessons, Rob Madge’s autobiographical show My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) is nothing short of fabulous.
In a cultural landscape where nearly every entertainer to step into the spotlight is effusively described as ‘born to perform‘, it can be hard to gauge whether said person is truly one-of-a-kind or simply the victim of hyberbole. The same could categorically not be said of Rob Madge and their masterpiece My Son’s a Queer, which sashays up to you and presents you squarely with the evidence, tied up with a sequinned bow for good measure.
The play, which has just returned to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End following a slew of sell-out runs across the country, centres around Madge’s desire to recreate a ‘Disney parade’ in the style of the living room shows they used to perform as a child, which featured granny on the teacup ride, dad tackling multiple characters and one family member tasked with the Highly Important role of filming the production.
While these home videos provide undeniable proof of Madge’s theatrical flair, they also form the foundation of My Son’s a Queer, in which clips of the young performer are beamed on stage via a large projector; a device which is both beautifully simple and a fitting homage to the inventive nature of their childhood shows.
From the outset, it’s clear that Madge, who identifies as non-binary, is exactly where they are meant to be. Whether we’re watching the performer deliver hilariously snarky lines from their script or an astoundingly precocious younger Madge strut their stuff on video, the laughs come thick and fast.
The real magic of My Son’s a Queer, though, lies in the heartwarming message provided to parents of queer children, sculpted through the lens of Madge personal experiences. At one point, they tell the audience they were born “with a willy, which matters”; one of the first moments where you twig that the show has plenty more substance than sharp wisecracks about dad’s shoddy stage management.
From their early years as a vibrant young child who was practically glued to the “imagination play” area, to retreating into their shell at school and finding comments such as “more enthusiasm needed” on their report card, Madge draws a trajectory that will resonate with many people in the LGBTQ+ community.
The juxtaposition of humour and heartache is used to great effect. One moment Madge is yelling at his dad for missing his Beast cue, and in the next breath, they’re dejectedly observing that there’s no dressing up section for “anyone simply fabulous”.
At its heart, though, the show is a triumphant celebration; both of the individuality and resilience of queer kids, and the parents and caregivers who give their all to raise them into adults who feel empowered to be their authentic selves.
In most of the home videos, Madge’s family members are nothing but supportive, and that alone is enough to make you shed a tear. At one stage, Madge’s dad tells them that their grandma used to give them wigs made out of mops on the sly. In another particularly touching Christmas recording, those same grandparents present Rob with a homemade theatre. For Madge, it’s a cathartic reflection on the moments that made them; for the audience, a lesson in the beautiful rewards to be reaped from accepting someone for who they really are.
It’s not new advice, of course. But, as Madge demonstrates, it’s as good advice as it ever was. These stories are universal, and in the current climate, more important than ever.
My Son’s a Queer has also given itself a timely update for its new season. The play has been sprinkled with smart lines about the West End’s newest star, Cheryl, and Madge’s love of the pointedly “good” Cinderella, which is inserted in such a way that as a viewer, you don’t feel short-changed if you saw it elsewhere.
Madge also wisely takes their time to feed off the energy of the room and volly with audience members, which, when combined with the intimate, living room-esque set, makes the whole affair feel like you’re sitting down for a cup of tea with a particularly funny friend.
So, if you suspect that your son, daughter or child is indeed queer, the advice is simple: book a ticket ASAP to see My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?). Oh, and congratulations!
Read Rob Madge’s interview with PinkNews here.
My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) runs at the Ambassadors Theatre until 18 March.
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