My third child, who invariably begins all our phone conversations with the words, Mother! It’s your favourite son! called a couple of weeks ago to congratulate me on my new mooring (of which more later) and to prepare me for his appearance as the Chevalier Danceny in the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
My son is finishing his final year in drama school, a time when all young aspiring actors hope to find an agent. To that end the school puts on a series of public performances to give its actors exposure.
Just a Parental Advisory Warning about the performance, said my son, On account of nudity.
My nudity, he added, just so I was clear.
I hesitated a moment and then asked, Are you (pause) decent?
I have a cushion, he replied, his voice rising cheerfully to confirm the helpfulness of soft furnishings.
His father and I debated as we booked our seats. The website wanted to put us in the front row. Eventually, however, we managed to get tickets for a discreet half dozen or so rows back.
My son did not have the leading role – most of the characters are women – but his was the second most important male part, with a critical plot element, since he kills the leading man in a sword fight. I thought, well, any agents around will remember him – he’s the bare bottomed one, handy with his épée.
Before the sword fight, he makes love to the leading man’s lover.
In the end, for reasons of artistic integrity (and public decency, no doubt) the director abandoned the cushion idea in favour of breeches, and since his parents were going to be in the audience, my son had permission to hitch his breeches higher than usual as he rose from his lady love.
Nevertheless, even from row i we had a pretty good view of his bare bottom.
His father and younger sister disliked the play, but I found it interesting and disturbing, despite clumsy anachronisms. Even a weak 20th century adaptation didn’t obscure the point of the original text: sex was all about tactics and power. Love mostly interfered with sex, and no one lived happily ever after.
On the drive home we watched the moon rise above the horizon, wonderfully large and glowing red. I remarked to my daughter in the back seat that I had heard this was the closest to the earth the moon had visited in 19 years – exactly her whole life. I guess I was too distracted with my new baby in March 1992 to notice the last perigee.
The Crow reminded me of that grown up word (and I instantly mentally replied with apogee). Brits are astonishingly ignorant about the most basic science, and though BBC radio did tell me the moon would be nearest, the p word never crossed their lips.