My Son’s A Queer, But What Can You Do? has burst onto The Turbine Theatre stage this month and it is certainly one of the most entertaining evenings around. Constructed around old home videos of Rob Madge, the writer and performer, this completely hilarious production is unlike any other.
Together with director Luke Sheppard, Madge has put together a joyous piece of theatre which celebrates raising a queer child – whilst unashamedly making fun of the utter chaos caused by a self-proclaimed ‘flamboyant little monster’ like themself. The piece also gives Madge a chance to show off their vocal skills, as they deliver self-penned musical numbers which range from campy showtunes to heartfelt ballads. Despite being currently known most for their comedic online presence, Madge does a brilliant job of delivering a moving through-line centring around their non-binary identity and being true to who you are.
During lockdown, Madge garnered significant online attention when they released a video of the Disney Parade they cultivated in their own home during childhood. It is videos like this which make up a significant portion of the show, as Madge provides live commentary on their chaotic and wildly entertaining childhood exploits. It is impressive how well put together these segments were, as they have been thoughtfully edited for maximum comedy value, with every video ending on a brilliantly timed freeze frame.
A minor criticism with this format is the fact that Madge occasionally risks getting upstaged by… Madge themself (their younger incarnation, of course). As a child Madge is so unapologetically bold, dramatic and spontaneous that, in order to compete, present-day Madge could afford to have even more improvisational fun with their own script.
The design elements of the production are spot-on, with the set consisting of recognisably normal living-room furniture to match the homemade vibe of the videos shown. Madge also pulls out the many of the same props seen in the videos, which are surprisingly well kept, and bring such a personal touch to the show. On the flip side, it is an extravagant production with confetti canons galore and one cabinet door pulling down to reveal spotlights. Madge cleverly keeps this high-quality production value quite down-to earth, however, by deliberately having cues go off at the wrong place or time.
Pieces like this are so important for queer audiences, not only because of the dozens of queer (and predominantly musical theatre) references littered throughout. Jokes which utilise names such as Connie Fisher and Sarah Brightman may go over the heads of some, but Madge does not pause to explain. This expectation of understanding solidifies the production as one which is first and foremost created for theatrical queers like Madge themself, and not designed to spoon-feed those outside of the community.
On a deeper level, this show is so important because of how well it captures the common queer issue of expressing your true self whilst battling societal expectations. Dressing up as a child, although cliche, is a real and important form of self-expression and the way it is viewed by others can be so damaging to personal development. Madge’s portrayal of this struggle, despite their melodramatic childhood nature, is anything but performative and this honesty makes for a truly emotional climax.
My Son’s A Queer, But What Can You Do? is such a delightful, crowd-pleasing show and, having just extended for another two weeks (to no surprise), this production is unlikely to be the last we hear from Madge – nor should it be!
My Son’s A Queer, But What Can You Do? is playing The Turbine Theatre until 17 July. For more information and tickets, see The Turbine Theatre’s website.