“Are you filming?” A decade before selfie culture kicked in, Rob Madge was a child ahead of the curve, demanding their family home-video every flamboyant performance they ever staged in their Coventry living room. It’s as well they did: those videos have propelled Madge (who is non-binary) via social media celebrity to their own autobiographical solo show. The videos are the early focus of My Son’s a Queer, and it can feel self-centred as Madge, a Midlands Alan Cumming in vest and pants, replays the act-outs and homespun theatrics of their youth. But in time, this childhood diva melts into the background and their loving family emerge as the stars of the show.
The question here, as per Madge’s lyrics, is: “Why does it have to be a choice of just two?” Disney buff Madge wants to wear Belle’s yellow dress but their dad buys them a Beast costume instead. In a shocking moment, their school discourages Madge’s theatricality, which “won’t help him make friends”. What is Madge, keener on stagecraft than soccer, supposed to do? Happily for them, and advertised here by abundant footage of their infancy, the Madge family closes ranks, love-bombing this domestic impresario and show pony in the making.
Occasionally, those home videos feel self-indulgent. More often, though, they are richly comical, as we marvel at Madge Jr’s unselfconscious bossiness and their loved ones’ failure to measure up to their sky-high entertainment standards. Latterly, the footage can be very moving: I defy you to watch one film, of Madge receiving a beautiful Christmas gift from their grandparents, without a lump in the throat.
In Luke Sheppard’s production, unfolding on a frumpy front-room set with glamour concealed, My Son’s a Queer offers something for everyone. A coming-of-age gay narrative, replete with a musical number about Madge’s first crush (on the Pied Piper). A pop culture love-in for fairytale fanboy/girls and everyone in between, reminiscent of Rebecca Humphries’ 2014 hit Dizney Rascal. And, most compellingly of all, a cri de coeur for parenting that, rather than splicing children into preordained pinks and blues, embraces them in their infinite expressive variety.
My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) is at the Turbine theatre, London, until 17 July.