My Son’s a Queer (but what can you do?)
Ambassador’s Theatre, London until March 18
Rob Madge was a forward-thinking toddler who got their dad to film them doing virtually everything right from the get-go – among other things,
heading off for their first day at school, playing in the garden and putting on little shows for their family.
Grown up now, Madge is reaping the benefits with their show My Son’s a Queer (but what can you do?), which is a nod to a line in the musical Les Misérables that they got to appear in as a youngster, first in London and then on tour.
In a lot of their own show, Madge is just sitting down on a sofa replaying the old footage and making knowing remarks to the audience. They make much of their sexuality and suggests it was obvious from virtually the moment they first drew breath.
Madge reminds me of Kenneth Williams, and their act, like Williams’, is mostly centred on knowing or risqué asides to the audience. This is great fun. Everyone in the audience – gay or straight – picks up on their honesty and empathises.
The show, directed by Luke Sheppard, becomes more interesting, however, when they drop the mask and there are occasional moments of vulnerability, such as when they talk about the homophobic bullying they had to endure as a schoolboy.
This is a quirky, idiosyncratic and therefore brave show, so top marks to Bill Kenwright for producing it. Anyone who has read Kenneth Williams’ diaries will know how Kenwright helped him out when his career was going through a difficult patch.
Madge has undoubted stage presence and there is no question they have funny bones. Still, it’s their parents – kind, decent and human – who emerge out of this the best. Their father – a benign figure glimpsed occasionally on the video footage – is clearly a saint.
The title notwithstanding, this is very much the son telling their story. I guess their dad understands that second billing is always going to be his lot in life. A bad father wants his son to be exactly like him, but a good father rejoices at what makes them different.