A True Performance
“… Pasquier’s use of controversial methods is likely what has kept him constrained to the semi-professional circuit because, once again, with a cast of mostly amateurs and spare-time thespians, he has put on a show that has outstripped its humble backroom, intimate environment. There are moments where one could truly forget they were not at the West End.
“OK, I will admit hyperbole, but for the price of a low-key production, we are delivered a compelling plot and a true chemistry between our lead roles. As I said at the start of this piece, the premise of a female teacher and her male student in a near-amateur production would have never caught my eye, but Pasquier’s name drew me in. If it had not, I would never have had the true delight of witnessing performances by Samantha Phillips-Moore and Rob Ward, who truly sold me their forbidden romance.
“Hearing that Pasquier had included not one, but two, erotic scenes I postulated that he was trying to draw an audience; after all, sex sells, but I once again commend Phillips-Moore and Ward who pull off…”
“Yes, Sweetie?” prompted Sebastian’s mother, as he abruptly stopped reading out loud the blog post.
Sebastian looked uncomfortably at his father then back to his phone, before responding to his mother, “Well, yeah, the reviewer just really likes your performance, well done Mum!”
She pressed no further, and Sebastian was glad; he and his father were proud of his mum, definitely, but there were quickly there became concerns when it was clear that Samantha would have to perform sex scenes on stage with another man. His father clearly showed some signs of jealousy but, and Sebastian understood this completely, the fact her opposite number would be playing a teenager character suggested a much younger guy would be cast and this seemed to bother him a whole lot more.
Sebastian was very much an unplanned pregnancy; his mother was a teenager when she had him and his father was a friend’s older brother. Now that his father was in his early 40s and his mother in her mid-30s, the age-gap was pretty much a non-issue, but Sebastian wondered if it was one of the reasons why this play bothered his dad so much, even though they had both seen her act lovingly and even kiss other actors as part of other performances.
Sebastian found it strange to think that his mother would be pretending to be in a relationship with a guy who was likely to be close to his age, but at first it wasn’t something that concerned him. However, that was before Rob had been cast. When it was just a theoretical concept it felt a little funny for Sebastian, but nothing he couldn’t get over. When he heard that someone from his own class at school would be acting like he was having sex with Sebastian’s mother, it became a whole lot less comfortable.
It wasn’t just that it was a class mate of his, it was the fact it was Rob Ward. Of all the people, it just had to be him. Yes, it made sense; Rob had been the lead role for many school productions, and he had applied for drama school, and he, admittedly, had a few accolades to his name, but it still came like a punch to the gut for Sebastian when he found out. Rob was charismatic, funny, good-looking; it was no surprise he was such a performer, but he also had a heaped dose of arrogance and entitlement to go with it.
Sebastian put his phone down and returned pensively to his cereal. He thought about three months ago, when Rob was first given the part of Samantha’s on-stage lover.
“Yo Seb!” called Rob, but Sebastian ignored him.
“Hey, Seb!” Rob called again, this time close enough that he reached out and squeezed Sebastian’s shoulder, just a little too hard for comfort.
Sebastian pulled free and turned around before answering, “What do you want Rob?”
“Alright mate, no need to be so grumpy. We can find you a tampon if you need,” replied Rob, quickly chuckling to himself.
“Just leave me alone if you’re gonna be a dick,” retorted Sebastian, feeling a twinge of embarrassment that his comeback sounded whinier than he had hoped.
“Fair enough,” shrugged Rob, his larger, taller, imposing frame contrasting with the nonchalance of his tone.
He ‘hmmm-ed’ after a couple of seconds of staring down at Sebastian, then continued, “I just wanted to say congratulations your mum for being the star in a play.”
“What?” asked Sebastian, his brow furrowed, “Why would you care about that? How do you know?”
“Oh yeah…” replied Rob, pretending to ponder, “You wouldn’t know? Your mum and me, we’re lovers?”
“In the play, of course.”
“No, piss off! You’re not playing David?”
“Yup, we’re David and Lisa,” grinned Rob, “Though I think Sam and Rob sounds better. Either way… we’ll be grinding and getting dirty on stage.”
“Piss off, Rob!” shouted Sebastian, whacking his palm of his right hand against Rob’s left pectoral.
There was a muffled thwacking noise as Sebastian tried to push his antagonist, but Rob barely had to take a step back to steady himself. As a small crowd of people turned to look at the pair, mostly drawn in by Sebastian’s outcry, Rob grabbed Sebastian by the front of his shirt, and drew him in close.
Rob’s free hand raised up to Sebastian’s face level, which prompted Sebastian to flinch back, but instead, Rob just slapped his cheek, a couple of times, barely enough for it to hurt.
“I’ll let that one go this one time, Seb,” he said, in a faux-jovial tone, and released his grip, then stepped away from Sebastian with a grin on his face.
“…But just because me and you mum… we’re like this…” he continued, raising his right hand up to show his index and middle fingers rightly crossed.
“Sebastian… are you ready to go?” asked his mother, snapping him out of his thoughts.
His mind returned to the breakfast table, where his cereal was now eaten, and his mother was already wearing her coat, ready to drive him to school.
Mother and son went to her car and Sebastian’s mind began to wander again to the evening after Rob told him he would be in the same play as his mother.
Sebastian had been in his room when he heard the front door. He had been thinking about a way to talk to his mother about starring opposite Rob. It was a small performance; his mother did it more as a hobby than a career, as she had long given up trying to be a professional actress, primarily — Sebastian did feel guilty about this — because she had him at a young age and had to give up regular acting.
He came down the stairs and heard his parents having a heated discussion in the kitchen. He heard a few key words that gave it away they were speaking about the play and so he waited just around the corner from the kitchen and listened.
“Fine, I have admitted it, I know it’s just acting, but I am bothered by you doing such a… well… a sex scene, in fact, two. Does it bother me it’s with a teenager more than if it had been someone closer in age to you? Maybe. But the fact it’s someone in our k**’s class…”
“But Jeremy, honey, it is just a performance… I know this one is a little different from before but, please, this director is on his way up, and if I impress him then maybe I could get to be on a bigger stage and have a go at a serious performance.”
“Trust the bloody French to have to throw in a sex scene in for no reason. Oh but zis ees art,” replied his dad, with a weak laugh.
“Honey… It’ll be fine…”
“I know, it’s just that it’s with a k** in Seb’s school.”
“What’s up?” chimed in Sebastian, feigning ignorance, as he entered the kitchen.
His father was in a shirt and trousers; his outfit for work, and, guessing by her attire, he had clearly picked up Sebastian’s mother on her way home from the gym. Samantha was dressed in skin-tight three-quarter length yoga pants and a cropped tank top that hugged the ample swell of her chest and exposed midriff up to just below her belly button.
At 37, she was younger than most, if not all, the mothers of Sebastian’s classmates and she religiously attended the gym, so he accepted that with her relatively youthful and toned yet curvy figure she was going to be seen as the best-looking mum of his year. Combined with the fact she wasn’t one to hide her well-maintained body by often, like now, wearing tastefully revealing clothes, Sebastian had accepted he would get a few jokes his way about his ‘hot mum’. He had wondered on the way home that if his mum hadn’t been so good-looking, would Rob have made such a big deal of getting to be her boyfriend within the play.
“Hi Sweetie,” greeted his mother, “The play I’m in from November, they’ve chosen the guy who will play the male lead.”
His mother paused, and Sebastian thought maybe now was the time to tell his parents about Rob’s offensive behaviour.
He composed his thoughts as he prepared to speak, but his mother got there first, “It’s actually a k** from your school, Robert Ward.”
“Have you mentioned him before?” asked Jeremy to his son, “Now that you say his name again, it sounds familiar. Did you have a problem with him once or twice a few years back?”
Sebastian had let on to neither parent the full extent to which Rob bothered him, but his mother was far more aware than his father. Sebastian saw her look between him and his father with a level of discomfort, probably hoping he wouldn’t lay into Rob too much and fuel his father’s discontent further.
Sebastian still wanted his mother to give up this role but as he tried to say the words, he thought of what he overheard minutes ago, about how this particular performance was important to her, and instead he said, “Oh yeah, we had a few disagreements years ago, but its fine now. I hope… he works out well for you as a co-star.”
He struggled over the words but he felt better after he said them; he felt like he had taken the mature stance and thought about his mum’s wishes ahead of his own trivial arguments.
At least, that is how Sebastian felt at the time, back in the present, in the car, with three months of reflection, he wasn’t sure anymore. Two to three times a week Rob would mock him about it, but always in a way that never quite pushed Sebastian too far. He’d show him lines from rehearsal where his mother would have to say something a little explicit, or maybe a scene prompt like ‘David and Lisa kiss’ but gave him very little that he could complain about that wouldn’t sound like he was being petty.
The worst, as he expected was when they were rehearsing the sex scenes, but it wasn’t for the reasons he imagined. He expected Rob to rub it in his face, to give him all the dirty details and to recount everything vividly… but he did the exact opposite.
He remembered back to around the third week of rehearsals; Sebastian was passing Rob in the corridor when Rob grabbed him and took him aside.
“So tonight is rehearsals,” said Rob, abruptly.
“Yeah? I know… what’s your point?” retorted Sebastian, trying to hide his irritation; he hated Rob knowing how much he got under his skin.
“We’re rehearsing one of the scenes tonight…”
“Yeah that’s how rehearsals work, I thought that’s a simple enough concept, even for you…”
“Good one, mate!” retorted Rob, as he punched Sebastian in the shoulder; it wasn’t full force, but it was enough to hurt.
Rob chuckled for a second, as he grabbed the shoulder he just punched and squeezed down so his thumb was pressing down on the tender spot.
“What I meant was,” he said before pausing to drop to a whisper, “that we’re rehearsing one of… those scenes.”
“You mean a sex scene,” replied Sebastian, teeth clenched.
“Well… Our director likes to call them ‘zee very eenteemat scene’ but yeah, one of those.”
Sebastian felt queasy at the thought, but he did his best to give nothing away as he spoke, “OK, is that all?”
Rob relaxed his hold on Sebastian’s shoulder, and answered, “Yeah, actually, just thought you might want know.”
“Right… so you’re not gonna rub any of the details in my face or just gloat about some particular thing ‘David and Lisa’ do on stage?” asked Sebastian, annoyed at himself for showing his frustration.
“No, of course, not, mate,” smirked Rob, “I only told you all that stuff before because I thought you were interested. I mean these scenes are just like ones before where I’ve had to kiss your mum. Yeah, these ones are a little more passionate and get a bit heavier, and there’s also… actually never mind…”
“What?” demanded Sebastian.
“Nah mate, you’re right, wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable…”
Sebastian had felt relief straight after Rob had left. Up until that day he had been dreading the moment Rob and his mum had to start rehearsing sex scenes together, worried about what Rob would say to goad him. He had thought that maybe Rob’s plan was to tease him the next day, giving him all the unwanted details then. However, throughout the day, Sebastian had mental images of his mother and Rob in bed together. He started to play in his mind all the different possibilities that could happen that evening during rehearsal. He then realised that by not knowing anything specific, it was even worse than if he knew exactly what was in store; that was Rob’s plan.
He remembered his imagination working overtime, desperately trying to work out what his mum and Rob would be doing on-stage. He started to think weird things, like after certain rehearsal sessions he’d imagine his mum was a little more excitable and cheerful and he thought maybe those were the days when she was pretending to romp around in bed with Rob.
It was just a few days before the first live performance, when Sebastian cracked.
“One last dry hump… I mean dry run,” chuckled Rob as he roughly ruffled Sebastian’s hair, “before the show.”
“Why do you keep just saying stupid cryptic comments?” barked Sebastian, tired of the torture his mind was putting him through, “If you’re going to mention it, just say it, if not, then just shut the f… just… shut up.”
Rob laughed heartily, “That’s so fucked up mate. You want me to tell you about how I act out fucking your mum? Isn’t it good enough you’ll get to see it? You want me to describe it for you? Perv alert!”
“No… that’s not what I meant…”
“Just wait until the show… your mum really knows how to act,” replied Rob, whilst miming a woman grabbing her chest and yelping in pleasure.
Sebastian threw his weight at Rob, hands outstretched and managed to knock him against the wall behind.
Rob ‘ouched’ and winced then looked at Sebastian with raw anger. Rob almost always had a look of disdain and contempt for Sebastian but he had never seen Rob look like he actually wanted to really, truly hurt him, rather than just belittle or humiliate him.
Sebastian went clammy and cold, his stomach churning with fear as Rob stepped closer to him. Rob was about ten centimetres taller and maybe that much wider, but now that Rob had expanded his chest out fully and Sebastian was cowering, he felt like Rob was twice his size.
Rob grabbed Sebastian with his right hand such that his forearm was diagonally across Sebastian’s chest. Using just the force of that one arm, he flung the smaller k** around, back at the wall he had just been pushed into and Sebastian collided with a set of lockers. He painfully connected with the edge as a metallic ringing caught the attention of a couple of other students at the other end of the corridor.
Sebastian looked up at Rob from the floor. He put his hand up the back of his shirt to feel a wetness at the point where his side struck a metal protrusion. A thin coating of red confirmed he was bleeding from a small injury, but Rob didn’t seem to care.
“Don’t you fucking touch me again, or I’ll beat you harder than I’m gonna pound your mother up on stage… got it?”
Sebastian silently nodded and Rob left just as two fellow students came to help Sebastian up.
Recalling that incident, still in the car, Sebastian reached his hand behind his back and felt the place where he had been cut. It was fully healed now, it had been weeks since then, but there was definitely a psychological scar left, that he was reminded of when he looked at his mum.
“You OK, sweetie?” She asked, “You’ve been very quiet since we got in the car.”
“Yeah, I’ve just been thinking about stuff.”
“Oh? Anything you want to share?”
“Not really,” Sebastian replied, shaking his head as he thought about when he had told his mother that Rob had hurt him.
It had been later in the same day, he had got home and removed his shirt to find a little red stain where it rested on his cut. He fully intended to tell his parents about what had happened but he was embarrassed that he let himself get hurt, so he hand-washed his shirt where it was a little bloody, until it was almost imperceptible pale pink.
His mother had returned home very shortly after that and quickly dashed to her room, to change ready for rehearsals. He knocked on the door and heard her ask him to wait a few seconds before calling him in.
She was pulling down a tight black tank top that finished a fingers width above the waist of her leggings. Though not explicitly revealing, the figure hugging clothes and low cleavage left little to the imagination. She tied her thick brown hair up into a ponytail and looked in the mirror before finally addressing him.
“Rob’s being a little funny about this whole thing,” he told his mother, vaguely.
“Well, I know you mentioned before he made you uncomfortable a couple of times by talking about the play, but I thought we discussed that and you decided that maybe you needed to get over the fact that I have to act in very… explicit… scenes with your classmate.”
Sebastian sighed quietly; they had discussed that and he had agreed that point, but his mother had led the conversation that way, rather than Sebastian offering that up as a reason for his discomfort. It was partly his fault for downplaying how often Rob was teasing him.
“What did he do this time?” She asked, as Sebastian had kept silent for a little while.
“Well he just made a joke about grinding… no it was humping, I think, because the play is about to start live performances soon.”
“What did he say?”
“Well I don’t remember exactly…”
“If you can’t remember it then maybe it’s not really such a big deal then?”
“OK, wait, let me think… he said ‘oh it’s just one more dry hump left… I mean dry run before the show.'”
Samantha ‘hmmm-ed’ before responding, “That is quite rude but I know you boys tease each other, I’ve overheard you with your friends when they are around here, and I know you’ve said things about other people’s mums when you’re playing some of those shooter games.”
Sebastian went a little red as his mother reminded him of some of the crude things he had shouted over his PlayStation headset.
However, he wasn’t about to give up, and he continued, “Yeah but then he shoved me into some lockers.”
“Physically pushed you?”
“Oh… that’s a different story. That’s not good,” she replied, sympathetically.
She leant in and kissed him on the top of the head before speaking again, “I’m sorry, sweetie, I’ll talk to him this evening.”
After his mum left to go to rehearsal, Sebastian had hoped she’d come back with good news. She had come into his room later that evening but her expression was quite unimpressed.
“Hi,” she said, curtly, “So today Rob came up to you, made a crude joke then pushed you?”
“Yeah,” replied Sebastian, his voice a little nervous as he wondered where this was going to go.
“Nothing you omitted?”
“Did you push him first?”
“Well yeah, but he did start it!” exclaimed Sebastian, aware he sounded like a tattling c***d.