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A knockabout comedy at Oxford's Pegasus Theatre

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A Pattern of Bad Behaviour at the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, on Saturday, September 4

REVIEW by Jon Lewis

For the first time since February 2020 I’ve been inside a theatre. I’ve reviewed online and outdoor shows since the pandemic began, but like many regular theatregoers, being in the same room as the performers and audience is where the magic happens. The Pegasus Theatre in Oxford was well-prepared to ensure the safety of the public: all the front of house team wore masks as did everyone who bought tickets. Tickets were unreserved and the auditorium was not full, so audiences could sit in spaces in a relatively distanced manner. Names were ticked off a list as audiences entered the auditorium.

A Pattern of Bad Behaviour is a new play by former Pegasus Theatre SPARK artists Clown Funeral, written by director Sam George with Ella Tebay. A two-hander directed by Sam George, who co-wrote the play with Ella Tebay, it’s a lively comic drama about two of life’s lost souls, A & B (Freddie Paul, Sam Wightman). Meeting by chance, they begin a friendship based on regular fighting contests, a suggestion proposed by the more adventurous A.

A & B’s lives are mundane, routine and without excitement as both are bored by work. Their fights are for real, faces bashed, groins kicked. B suggests using weapons, scaring A when he brings a baseball bat to their next fight. A wants to feel the realness of danger but without losing an eye socket. Fights mutate to drinks in the pub where they reveal their bucket lists, daring each other to tick off their wish lists however dangerous or unrealistic. Soon they take further risks that begin to endanger their platonic relationship. Paul is disarmingly bashful until she unleashes a rare dazzling smile, Wightman perfecting an edgy naivete.

The staging is simple but effective; two stools, two floppy buckets for a dip in the chilly October sea, and two vertical light strips conjuring up night clubs and fight spaces. Pop songs like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough or Take a Chance on Me drive the narrative forward like a Chorus commenting on the scene. It’s great to be back in the theatre.

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