At the tender age of 12, Rob put on a full-blown Disney parade for his giggly Grandma. In dodgy wigs and improvised costumes, he gave her Ariel, Belle, Mary Poppins and Mickey Mouse while doting Dad acted as stagehand, sound technician and general props-body. It didn’t go well.
As much as I dislike the whole ‘we’re all queer, now’ thing, I jumped at the chance to see My Son’s a Queer, written and performed by Rob Madge at Norwich’s trendy Playhouse Theatre. It’s received some spectacular reviews, selling out at London’s off-West End Turbine Theatre in 2021 and taking the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe by storm. It’s currently on national tour before heading to yer actual West End this October. We saw the single-handed touring version and it was glorious – a fabulous autobiographical tale of Rob’s upbringing as a Disney-obsessed, uber-flamboyant child delivered in words, music and old family videos.
Just an everyday ordinary family with an everyday extra-ordinary child; the love – and sometimes the exasperation – shone brightly through those old movies. Despite the teachers, the bullies and the rejection, Rob stuck by his sequins and, thanks to Rob’s courage and loving family, proved beyond doubt that home is where the heart is. This isn’t always the case for the child who’s just a little bit different. We laughed a lot, we cried a bit, we jumped to our feet at the end. The simple answer to the question but what can you do? to parents everywhere is just roll with it; it will bring you endless joy.
Take Steel Magnolias, add a dash of Thelma and Louise, a big dollop of Burl Ives in a white linen suit, sprinkle with slapstick, mix with some catchy toons, then serve. This is Waitress, an uplifting and witty musical that tells the story of Jenna, who waits tables, bakes pies and dreams of a getting out of small town USA and away from her good for nothing husband. If Jenna were from small town UK, she’d win The Great British Bake Off and get her own Saturday morning show on TV. Made from the finest ingredients, Waitress is simply delicious.
Over the past decade Norwich has seen an invasion of psychedelic mountain gorillas, a parade of glittery elephants, the flight of the camp dragons, a husk of vivid hares, a swarm of big bugs and a hungry group of dazzling dinosaurs. This year, the T-Rexes are back with a vengeance to sink their claws and jaws into a herd of steppe mammoths – all in aid of Break, a charity supporting children in care. A round of applause, please. Let’s not worry too much that the hunters and the hunted roamed the Earth at entirely different times, separated by millions of years. It’s just a bit of fun for the bored kiddies during the summer holidays.
Most of the proto-jumbos with their oversized tusks are more county than town, dotted about various corners of Norfolk, so I thought I’d never spot one grazing in Norwich. I made do with snapping a small selection of the dapper dinos in their flashy finery instead.
But then I spotted this handsome beast clad in metal nuts at the entrance to St Mary’s Works. The old shoe factory is now the venue for Norwich’s uber-trendy Junkyard Market serving up street grub and fruity cocktails to a youthful crowd of beards and tattoos. We were there to celebrate a village boy’s 40th.
The sun was setting on a scorching day, and Metal Mammoth was glowing in the twilight, hot and sticky to the touch.
Last Saturday Norwich Pride was back painting the town pink after a three-year absence because of you know what. And it was back with a bang – bigger, brasher and better than ever. Our bus into the city was transformed into a pride express, stuffed with jolly rainbow people from town and county. After arriving in the city, we joined the crowd of many colours heading to the centre and pitched our tent along Gentlemen’s Walk to watch the parade. It ran late. Turns out that a cast of thousands wanted to get in on the act, so it took a while to gather them all up.
When it did set off, the exuberant mega-march just went on and on and on. It was truly heartening to see a long chorus line of so many young people putting it out there, happy and unafraid.
Norwich Pride is fully inclusive, everyone welcome, no one turned away. Why? Because it’s free. Some other pride events are now ticket-only. I get it, really I do. Many are run on a wing and a prayer and a bad weather day can result in a wash-out, leaving a trail of unpaid bills. But not everyone can afford the price to be proud, especially right now. Just like the NHS, let’s hope Norwich Pride remains free at point of access for many, many years to come.