Review: SHIFTERS, Bush Theatre

A witty, engaging romance.

By: Feb. 26, 2024
Review: SHIFTERS, Bush Theatre
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Review: SHIFTERS, Bush Theatre Dre and Des, now 32 years old, come face to face for the first time in years. One, grieving the loss of his grandma and primary caregiver, another fresh off a series of delayed flights, with a mouthful of cream puffs. 

A moment of silence.

A simple hello.

An entire story fills the gaps.

Shifters is, at its core, a love story. From their tense reunion to meeting at the age of sixteen and everything else in between, Dre and Des are colliding forces - and each time they part, unsaid words are left among the rubble. 

Written by Benedict Lombe, hot off the success of the award-winning Lava, Shifters is a powerful exploration of identity, destiny, and romance.

Review: SHIFTERS, Bush Theatre

Though their connection is undeniable, grief, miscommunications, anxiety, and past struggles make it difficult for their true feelings to come to the surface. This begs the question, would finding their voices bring them together or push them further apart? 

Throughout the duologue, both Tosin Cole and Heather Agyepong share an easy, believable chemistry that builds the more time they spend on stage. Cole is effortlessly charming as Dre, dripping with charisma one moment, anxious and bumbling the next. Agyepong is more composed than Des, delivering a powerful monologue about the pressure placed on young Black women in the latter half of the play. However, during the 100-minute run time, both demonstrate exceptional comic talent. 

The staging is minimal, with the thrust stage being framed by a series of strobe lights. As the actors jump between different storylines, the lighting shifts alongside them. While this proves to be a helpful device, there are times when the narratives become a little muddied, and the context of their interaction is unclear. 

Review: SHIFTERS, Bush Theatre

Shifters is strongest at its most comedic. It's here where the audiences fall in love with the characters. Their verbal sparring makes it clear that despite everything that has changed, they are still the same 16-year-olds who came together at a debate club, enriching the play with a sense of nostalgia. However, their struggles to embrace their vulnerabilities mean that some of the more dramatic moments can feel slightly glossed over. 

Despite this, Shifters is a poignant piece of theatre.

It's the kind of love story you cannot help but root for and the soul connection many crave, elevated by sharp direction from Lynette Linton and undeniable chemistry from the performers. 

Shifters plays at the Bush Theatre until 30 March.

Photo Credit: Craig Fuller.