When Rob Madge was 12, they attempted to stage a full-blown Disney parade in their living room. In this show, celebrating the joy of having a queer child and the loved ones who support them, Madge has the audience alternately rolling in the aisles and dabbing their eyes.
Inviting the audience to witness the restaging of their erstwhile extravaganza, after the original “went awry”, Madge introduces us to their younger self through old VHS tapes, school reports, photos and other mementos. From their earliest days, captured on video by parents Jon and Jan, Madge is a child that knows their own mind. This provides much of the humour, with their dad being ordered around by a tiny actor/director/producer with a singular vision and absolutely no desire to compromise.
As loving as their family is, Madge faces challenges that are all too familiar to many queer folk. Teachers’ unhelpful comments, school beatings and peer pressure to conform, which all contribute to an increasing feeling of being hemmed in by the binary. From starting “Stagecoach” to ultimately treading the boards of the West End, Madge finds the confidence to be themself.
Madge’s father, Jon, is certainly a big focus in this piece. The development from him buying little Rob masculine costumes (although they yearn only for Belle’s beautiful yellow dress) to full-throated support for his child is incredibly moving. There is much that glitters in this production, not least of all the work that is put in by both parents and grandparents to reach young Madge’s theatrical dreams.
Returning to the conceit that the Disney parade is now to be staged as it was really intended, Madge draws on the background they have given to wow us with a spectacular finale. In a show that is fundamentally a love letter to their family, and an encouragement to others to embrace their queer loved ones, the final video sequences will have you stamping your feet while reaching for your hanky.
By Deborah Klayman
Rob Madge: My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) plays at Underbelly, Edinburgh until 29th August 2022 (not 15th or 22nd).