Welcome to "In Conversation". Today, we're honoured to explore the journey of actor Rob Madge, whose show "My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do?" takes audiences on a heartfelt and hilarious trip through his early years via home videos. This poignant and humorous production celebrates Rob's unabashed self-expression and the unwavering support of his parents. From charming audiences as the Panto Cow in Pantoland to his bold storytelling and exploration of identity, Rob's journey is a testament to the power of narrative. Join us as we delve into the vibrant world of Rob Madge. Welcome, Rob, to "In Conversation".

Rob Madge in My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? Photo Mark Senior

Darren: I’m sitting here with Rob Madge from My Sons A Queer But What Can You Do? Can you tell us about the show for those who haven’t seen it or not heard about it?

Rob: Well, essentially, I discovered a lot of old home videos of when I used to put on shows in my living room as a child and I thought they were quite funny. So, the show was centred around these old home videos because I used to share them online during lockdown. Like as you do, and people would say that they were making them laugh and they were entertaining, but also that their parents would never have been half as supportive as mine were, which they really were. They were the best parents, still are. And I thought, well, there’s an interesting angle there for a show as to why you wouldn’t support your kids in their living room shows.

Darren: Why not?  And you’re very much about Disney. 

Rob:  Well, I was as a kid, yeah, I definitely was.  It was my kind of outlet into being really camp, I suppose. Being a Disney Princess or a Disney Villainess was the easiest route for me to express my love of dressing up and flamboyance, I guess, yeah.

Rob Madge in My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? Photo Mark Senior

Darren: Who was your favourite Disney Princess?

Rob: Oh, Little Mermaid. We have a lot of Belle in the show and sort of on the poster, but it’s always been Ariel. I don’t know why… I like swimming.

Darren: What about your Villains?

Rob: Maleficent, always. You can’t go wrong with Maleficent, something about the horns, gentlemen. Oh, yeah… Well indeed.

Darren: What do you think about Angelina Jolie’s take on Maleficent? 

Rob: You know, what excellent cheekbones. Those cheekbones. Oh, my goodness.  She’s very good at it. I mean, I approved. So clearly that’s all that matters. Yeah, she was amazing. I love that film.

Darren: Yeah, do you think the cheekbones were real?

Rob: Of course they weren’t. They can’t be. If they were real, impressive, but surely not.  Disney magic.

Rob Madge in My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? Photo Mark Senior

Darren: You created the show, and you based it on your own experiences. What advice would you give to those talented souls out there that would like to create their own stuff and maybe not as confident as you are. 

Rob: Oh, I think if you’ve got some burning passion inside of you to write or create just put something down on paper and getting started is always the hardest thing, but once you do, you won’t stop. I do too much procrastination myself, but I find that once I start looking back at…  I was talking to someone about this the other day, objects. If you’re short on inspiration, look at something in your house or something that you connect with and write a tiny little thing about that, and you’ll get some really good ideas going. And also I think anyone who’s not confident, I often think that as kids we were often very  outrageous and I encourage people to remember that kid inside them and don’t let anybody take any confidence away from you and go into life with a new energy of being that confident kid that you used to be and just go with that mindset and who cares… you’re playing pretend aren’t you. It’s not as deep as a lot of people make it, have fun with it.

Darren: What’s your go to object?

Rob: My go to object…  Videos. Home videos and puppets.

Darren: Oh puppets, you got a selection of puppets at home?

Rob: No spoilers.

Rob Madge in My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? Photo Mark Senior

Darren: How was the initial pitch then to Paul at Turbine, this idea?

Rob: He did a tweet in lockdown saying when we get over this pandemic, if we do, I mean we were in murky waters at the time, we didn’t know what was going to happen.  But he said I’d really love to work with new writers when I get the opportunity. So, I seized that opportunity, and I literally sent him a DM on Twitter, which is so crazy that a DM on Twitter has led to this now. Because he was generous in his time and his advice, which I thought was quite rare. And, yeah, I sent him this DM saying, I’ve written this show, what do you think? And he said, let’s have a meeting. And then after one meeting, he said, it sounds great. And he brought the whole team on board. And yeah, he really channelled all the mess of my ideas that were on paper and turned them into something in real life, which I’m very grateful for.

Darren: And then after Turbine, it went to Edinburgh. 

Rob: Yes. Yeah, we did the Fringe in August.

Darren: And then it went to the Garrick.

Rob: Yeah, we’ve been all over the shop.

Darren: And you’re at Ambassadors. Where’s next? 

Rob: Oh, the Palladium, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane…

Darren: You did the Palladium.

Rob Madge as the Cow in Panto at the Palladium. Photo Paul Coltas

Rob: Yes, as a cow.

Darren: A cow, yes. [laughs]

Rob: No, we aim to do it at least in every single theatre in London by the time the year’s out, that’s the plan.

Darren: What about out of London? What about your fans? Come on. 

Rob: Yeah, no, in seriousness, I would love to. I’d love to tour it at some point. I don’t think it would be for a while. I need to sort of come back to it fresh, I think, because we’ve done it for quite a long time now. Edinburgh, straight into the Garrick, and then I had a month off to do Panto, and then we’re back at it now.  So, I need some time away to get it sort of, the things that I’d wanna refresh.  And then I’d love to take it on a tour of the United Kingdom for sure. I definitely would love to take it to Birmingham because it’s my hometown, Manchester, I think Manchester would enjoy it. But yeah, at the minute, at the Ambassadors, I’m very baffled and confused by it all, but yeah, it’s a great lovely theatre.

Darren: So, you’re gonna refresh as opposed to doing Part Two?

Rob: Oh, no sequel. No, I don’t think so. I ain’t got that many home videos left. I’ve run out. No. There are so many but to tell the story I wanted to tell this so much that is unnecessary, funny videos, but not necessary.

Darren: Are your parents really the SM’s on this show? 

Rob: They are here right now and setting the show up for this evening.

Darren: Really? 

Rob: No. [Laughs]

Darren: Oh, because you say that in the show. And I thought, oh, okay. This really is a family affair. 

Rob: No, no, no.

Darren: That really is supportive parents that they can SM your show…

Rob: No, that’s probably my favorite question I’ve ever heard. I will tell them immediately. No, they used to be in the living room, in the living room shows, but they’ve never been part of My Son’s A Queer in any capacity other than being in videos.

Rob Madge in Panto at the Palladium. Photo Paul Coltas

Darren: What really got me is your relationship with your grandmother. I was very close to my grandmother. Both of them. But one specifically was the one you’d really have a laugh with that, you know, not so much put on a chair and spin around like it is the magic cups at Disneyland. But seeing this stuff, like, you know, we had our moments.  But I think that’s important. I think, like me, very fortunate to have those kind of relationships with your parents and grandparents. But what besides probably what is already in the show, but what specific memory do you have with your grandmother that in some respects helped you become the creative performer that you are today?

Rob: She was just, there was just never any question, or any raised eyebrow, or any indication that my form of expressing myself was wrong, or was odd, or strange.  That’s what I take away from her most, is her openness, and it was just normality for us, and she made damn good cakes, let me tell you that she made the best cakes ever and I’d always get a cake to say well done for the show that I’d made her endure, so she was just the best. She was an incredible woman.

Darren: Yeah, she seems like it and yeah well done on the videos well actually well done for keeping them all those years. I mean I guess that’s your parents again weren’t it. A box in the attic.

Rob Madge and Jennifer Saunders in Panto at the Palladium. Photo Paul Coltas

Rob: Totally. No, I think if they were ever thrown away Mum and Dad know better.

Darren: What’s next? if you have a chance to park the show for a little while. What would you like to do next?

Rob: I don’t know. I really want to do, as a performer, I’m always wanting to grow and do more challenging things. I’ve done a lot of musical theatre. I’d love to do some more plays. I’d love to do a Shakespeare. I was talking about this the other day.

Darren: What Shakespeare? 

Rob: Oh, any of them, As You Like It. I did As You Like It at university. Played a character called Touchstone who was just hilarious, and I had so much fun doing that. Like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you know, I’d love to do more things like that and if anything, just because singing. Oh my god, the stress of singing, every day, it’s sort of sometimes overrides the storytelling in a way. I find you wake up and you go God I hope I can sing today, and you must remember that’s not actually why people are here, they’re here to see a good story and a good show but when you’re singing all the time, I’ve had enough, I just want to speak for a little bit.

Darren: What about creating your own Shakespeare adaptation?

Rob: Oh my, yeah sure.

Darren: Maybe a collection of all your favorite characters into one piece.

Rob: That’s what I’ll do. Yeah, that’s the next show. My Son’s Obsessed with Shakespeare, What Can You Do? Yeah, that’s the sequel. That’s part two. There you go.

Darren: That’s perfect. Well, thank you very much. Thank you. 

Rob: Thank you for having me.

Rob Madge in My Son's A Queer But What Can You Do? Photo Mark Senior