Another full day. Lou and I rose early and up we went to London. There’s a show on at The Garrick Theatre called “My Son’s a Queer (but what can you do?)”. Lou had made some costumes for it and wanted to see it after an Edinburgh Festival that was triumphant enough to have it programmed in the heart of Soho. I’m always happy to see things.
The trend for the “show about me” still rides high, and often as I watch them I understand why. If people get them right, the performer can make everybody watching key into their own personal story. We are all so different, but we all have similar keys.
This was about a young human growing up queer in the town where Lou was born, to a brilliant family that worked out quickly how to support them. With a male name they were getting bullied for being Cinderella. The mum got a job a dinner lady to keep an eye. The whole tale is stitched together with exhaustive home videos taken by the parents. Our performer Robert is only 26. Rob has never not been YouTube generation. Rob has likely never not been fabulous. In many ways, watching them as a straight white (Hispanic?) downwardly mobile upper class middle aged male I might not have expected to have found so many points of contact. I found many.
I found myself swamped in memories of the things Max and I performed as children. Max was always the consistent character, I played everybody else. I was both parts of couples, where the husband would go off for a drink and then talk loudly to the wife offstage I was changing before coming back on in one of my mum’s dresses. We worked hard on the stories. We made them really as another form of playtime, but I quickly started to cleave to the performative life, and occasionally forcing my parent’s friends to watch us was golden.
Sadly for me it was not an easy win to get my parents let me perform. The stage is no profession to the world I grew up in. Many of my childhood friends are literally actual plants that can talk. The morals and behaviours of actors are base and to be shunned, they have been conditioned to believe. And lest they “go off the rails” too, they treat us like we are dangerous.
“Go into any other profession,” my father told me. “Go be a long distance truck driver. You’ll make more money and see more of the world.” He was wrong on the seeing the world thing, which is just as well as that is my chief delight. Money can go twiddle. The single most interesting job I have ever heard of being advertised in my life – the one job I always wish I had at least had an audition for – was the Globe to Globe Hamlet that went to every country in the world. Fucking hell. The only reason I’m glad I didn’t get that meeting and that job is because then my bucket list would be ticked with short ticks. I would love it… I could’ve gone window shopping then returned. Still, I’ve seen loads of world. I will see more.
Regarding the show today though, I fell in love with the performer’s family. So supportive. So full of love. My family had love for me too of course – so much. They would have hated a performance life themselves. They thought that love was to discourage me from that life. Of course it just cemented it. Oops. I put myself through drama school after dad died. Shortly after I finished my three year course, mum was dead from a sustained period of alcoholism.
It was wonderful to see the videos of Rob’s family being brilliant. Rob didn’t have the space to put a stage in the back garden, or build a theatre in the basement. Rob did it in a crowded living room with a supportive mum and dad. And now they’re sharing it with a wide and delighted audience. Good old them. All of them. It takes a tribe. I wonder…