Rob Madge was quick to become a viral sensation after their sharing of home video footage spread on TikTok. The performer’s home videos showcasing them defiantly staging amateur productions of Mary Poppins, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast in their living room with the support of game family members, captured the hearts of social media audiences. These productions form the basis of Rob’s one-person show My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do) which explores the seven steps to achieving one’s theatrical dreams with Rob ultimately looking to recreate their infamous Disney parade live on stage.
Staging the show in the set of a living room, Rob fuses original song with autobiographical storytelling and home video footage capturing their amateur dramatic productions. Reflecting on the support of their family in pursuing these dreams, Rob reflects on the challenging reactions from teachers and peers in their attempts to live authentically as their true self.
Filling the show with a mix of touching and amusing video footage helps build a picture of the loving and supporting home that Rob was raised in. Watching Rob as a young child command their parent’s about in order to stage their amateur productions or create a replica Disneyland in their home provides some comical, yet touching moments – including seeing Rob’s father taking the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast or their grandmother flung on a spinning chair doubling as the theme park’s teacup ride. These clips highlight the underlying importance of how essential it is for families to support their children for who they are. Rob’s home life was not perfect, with them sharing their disappointment at their father purchasing them a Beast not a Belle costume, yet their delight as their Grandmother sews a Maleficent gown.
The support from home gains further importance as Rob delves into their isolation at school, criticising contradictory school reports which suggested that they suppress certain behaviours. Whilst Rob makes points based on their own experiences of teachers, their show does not pay reference to the tens of thousands of teachers that do help their pupils flourish into authentic versions of themselves, providing a safe place from less supportive home environments. Perhaps this would dilute their point about the importance of loving and embracing queer children in the home environment, which is heightened by Rob sharing messages from parents of LGBTQIA+ children that have contacted them.
Rob’s original musical numbers take a saccharine approach, somewhat fitting as the finale of My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do) is centred on recreating a Disney parade, yet these do not reach the emotional peaks that the performer is aiming for. The real heart of Rob’s piece comes from the archival clip. Seeing footage of loving grandparents gifting their grandchild a home-made puppet theatre and a selection of hand-sewn characters hits with a more authentic emotional weight than any musical number could.
There’s an important message about loving and supporting children for who they are in My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do) and Rob conveys this in the nostalgic elements of the show, despite losing some impact in the show’s musical numbers.
Rob Madge: My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do) plays at the Underbelly George Square. Get tickets here.
Photo: Mark Senior