It’s a Saturday afternoon in 1960 and the Odeon cinema is screening Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘Spartacus’ with Kirk Douglas as the eponymous slave. Oliver, fourteen, and his first girlfriend, Roxanne, aka Roxy, sit next to each other holding hands in the middle of the stalls. They have a great view; the two rows in front of them are empty. Oliver lacks the confidence to put his right arm around Roxy’s shoulders. He wonders if that’s allowed on a first date. Oliver whispers to Roxy, It’s a great film. She nods, lost in the excitement of the battle between the slave army lead by Spartacus and the Roman forces led by Crassus (Laurence Olivier). The camera pans across the many dead bodies of men, women and children. Roxy wipes tears from her eyes.
Oliver gasps as he sees a short woman wearing an overcoat, a fur hat and horn-rimmed spectacles walking slowly down the aisle to the left staring at the audience. Oliver starts to slide down his seat beside Roxy until he’s almost sitting on the floor. What’s the matter? Roxy whispers.
Hell! That woman, with the hat and glasses, she’s my mother. She’s looking for me. What do I do?
Stay down and hide behind me.
His mother walks to the front of the theatre and crosses beneath the screen and starts up the other aisle.
Various voices protest, Come on Mrs – get out of the bloody way.
Oliver’s mother slowly progresses up the aisle nearest to Oliver carefully scanning each row for her son.
On screen a voice-over tells the slave prisoners that they will not be crucified if they identify Spartacus.
There you are! his mother says as she stalks up the empty row of seats.
Spartacus stands to give himself up, but slaves join him and shout, I’m Spartacus!
You’re with a floozy with big hair!
Mum, please. Stop!
Who you calling a floozy? Roxy asks.
You said you were coming here with Roger.
I saw him with his mother in town and he told me you were here with that floozy.
Shut up, lady!
Mum, stop causing a scene.
Here! Mrs! Shut it, will you?
You lied to me, Oliver.
I’m not putting up with this, Roxy says and flees.
The beams of usherettes’ torches pick out Oliver’s mother in the semi darkness.
A tear falls from Spartacus’ eye.
Protesting, Oliver’s mother is ushered from the cinema. Her final words, I’ll speak to you later!
Oliver sits in the dark hoping that no one will recognise him as the victim of his mother’s anger when the lights go up.
At the end of the film, Spartacus hangs, in agony dying, from a t-shaped cross. With his final breath he gasps, Free.
I wish I was free, Oliver thinks. And she’ll crucify me.
The lights go on and some of the audience titter as they stare at Oliver. Thank you, Mum, he thinks. Thank you so much!
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.