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  • Henry Longstaff

Shifters - Bush Theatre

“It’s a powerful thing to be seen”

Shifters at the Bush Theatre
Photograhy - Craig Fuller


Loss has drawn Des and Dre back together after seven years apart and whilst the entire world around them has changed, deep down they are still the same teenagers that fell in love. Benedict Lombe’s second play at the Bush Theatre creates a blistering collage of memories that when placed together form the story of two entangled and complicated lives. 

Des and Dre were each other’s first loves. Raised in differing circumstances but both living with grief. So when they meet years later at Dre’s grandma’s wake the memories come cascading back and we see snippets of how these people came to be who they are as they question whether there is a future in which they exist together. Benedict Lombe’s writing is quietly profound, her ability to condense entire lives into single sentences wielding a mighty power over an audience. The language is organic and accessible drawing us easily into the lives of the pair, enabling us to rapidly understand their perspectives and motivations. The script truly excels in offering a sturdy foundation for the actors to explore and play within the space, free from strings and speaking as if the words were created in the moment. 

Heather Agyepong and Tosin Cole share an undeniable chemistry as the now grown-up pair. They shift neatly between memory and the present day, the momentum and emotion unbroken in the change. They are natural and well cast, speaking with genuine conviction, each offering performances full of subtleties, allowing the brilliant script to shine but equally owning the quiet and pauses where words are unnecessary. Cole maintains a more reserved presence, always steadying himself behind an internal door, gradually allowing his affection and longing to leak outwards as the play progresses. Agyepong is more forthcoming as Des but enchants when speaking the words, aware of their weight. The duo form believable soulmates, encircling each other and matching the opposing energy perfectly. 

Alex Berry’s set is sparse and dark, lit by fluorescent tubes as part of Neil Austin’s lighting design. It removes any sense of place, allowing the action to veer wherever the memories require. Much of the narrative is framed by music so Tony Gayle’s sound design and XANA’s composition subconsciously link moments between the past and present as the pair move between to draw us further into their story. Lynette Linton’s direction is gentle and allows the performances to play out naturally, Cole and Agyepong unencumbered to power through a massive one hour forty acting shift.  

Shifters is a play about what-ifs and last words. It questions how we remember first loves and how those bonds linger into later life. With a stellar script and two seriously impressive performances, the Bush Theatre has yet another hit on its hands. Simply beautiful. 

Running until 30th March - Tickets

Photography - Craig Fuller

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