By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Sunday 23 October (matinee), runs 6 November 2022 RUNTIME: 65 minutes (no interval)
We’ve written before that 1 way you know when a piece of theatre is connecting with its audience is when you can hear them sobbing in the quiet bits.
- Read on for reasons including why you should grab your chance to catch this ‘personal, different and groundbreaking’ show
And so it is here – with our own eyes full of tears we hear how friendless young Robert Madge from Coventry (main picture right above) is bullied by his peers for being different and told by his teachers to rein in the qualities that will soon make him a West End star.
It isn’t this that has us in floods but the reaction of Rob’s grandparents, captured on home video and played on a screen here, who make the youngster his own puppet stage complete with puppets and pockets to put them in, so he can let the imagination his school is denying him run riot to his heart’s content.
This is the story of Madge’s failed 2009 attempt to create a Disney parade complete with beloved characters like Ariel, Mickey Mouse and Maleficent and their attempt to put it back on for us now.
The theme of this show is captured in 1 sentence brilliantly by the now non-binary performer’s father thus: ‘If our only duty as parents is to allow your kids to be what they want to be, then it makes parenting pretty easy in my opinion.’
Madge shoots back: ‘Here I am trying to do a whole show about it and dad does a better job in 1 sentence.’
If that gets you then the response of a parent whose daughter became a son but now can’t have a birthday party because no-one would come will leave you despairing.
And that’s not to say that this is a pity party. It’s far from it. It’s a celebration of what it is to be queer, what a joyous life it can be to live and how parents who choose to be part of it can gain so much from a different point of view on their lives.
Aptly Madge muses on a line from Beauty And The Beast: ‘We don’t like what we can’t understand because it scares us.’
We reflect on our own school experiences – how we were discouraged from a career in journalism because it was too difficult – and how we responded by rising to the challenge and we can’t help but think that this tale of people trying to thwart others’ ambition, and failing thanks to the love and support of family and friends, will strike a chord with many.
We’ve listened to the show album which we’d very much recommend and was released on Friday and think it is its 1st single We Will Be Loved Anyway (watch far above), a song of the month for us, that will most likely persuade you to through the doors at the West End’s glamourous and historic Garrick Theatre for this limited run.
The home video footage of Madge creating a Disney kingdom and spinning his delighted/terrified grandmother on a saucer/swivel chair is worth the price of admission alone (watch the 2nd YouTube clip above).
Madge proves an engaging and empathetic performer and the enthusiastic standing ovation and roar of approval at the show’s close is well-deserved for something so thrilling, uplifting, devastating, personal, different and groundbreaking.