Rob Madge really wants all eyes on them – and it’s pretty impossible not to be captivated in this audacious bullet train of show.
With a backbone formed by childhood videos of Madge performing in their front room – from a Disney parade to various improvised shows, complete with happily dragooned relatives, this is a 60 minute high-octane exploration of what it means to find, and be yourself.
Madge commands attention from the beginning, with gentle but clever design and sharply witty lyrics (with music and contributions by Pippa Cleary) taking us through their early years, and the dilemma of what do when you don’t conform to society’s expectations. There are many moments to savour, including Madge unpacking a suitcase of their homemade costumes, and the set’s living room furniture transforming into a stage lighting rig.
In some ways it’s a familiar story of the misfit youth, bullied at school and unsupported by teachers and others that should be more supportive, but rescued by the big heart of their family. What makes it stand out is the joy that Madge brings to it, and their overwhelming stage presence. It’s easy to see how they managed to bag four prominent West End musical roles by the age of 15.
It’s an emotional ride, especially with the inclusion of the social media reaction to video posts on the show’s development showing how the challenges haven’t changed much nearly 20 years on.
This particular show started in London last year and after a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival is headed to Madge’s spiritual home in the West End, with just the briefest of detours to Norwich. It’s a stop worth trying to catch.
- My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) is at Norwich Playhouse until Saturday, 3 September, 2022.