Shifters review – Bush Theatre, London ★★★★★

Photo: Craig Fuller

Review by Natalie Evans

This week, The Bush Theatre was host to another dazzling debut with Shifters by Benedict Lombe. An absolutely intoxicating piece of new writing, it tells the story of Dre and Des – highschool sweethearts and clearly each other’s ‘right person, wrong time’.

While this relationship dynamic could have made it be yet another retelling of a tale we’ve heard a thousand times, Lombe has managed to bring a fresh perspective with her dual protagonist feature here. The dialogue felt utterly genuine and the delivery was faultless, with every joke or crack of a voice landing exactly where and when it needed to.

There is true artistry here in how skillfully the writing balanced the audience’s emotions, making us constantly walk a tightrope of lighthearted humour, knowing full well there was a chasm of heartbreak for these characters below.

I appreciate that there are experiences shared by Dre and Des that are outside of my understanding (and therefore comment in regards to relatability) as a white woman, but judging from the joyous responses across the audience, this piece appears to have hit home deeply and purely with its representation of Black-British family culture.

The chemistry between Dre and Des was palpable throughout with Heather Agyepong and Tosin Cole so perfectly cast in these roles that it feels as though the text was written for them. There was such a simple tenderness in the way they interacted, even during arguments, whether that be a look or a touch, no one could miss how much each meant to the other.

Lynette Linton also displays her undeniable talent here with how inventive she can be with just a few black boxes. The Bush Theatre has never failed to impress me with the ingenuity it presents within such consistently minimalistic design choices. This being one of the many reasons that Linton is so well suited to being its Artistic Director.

Shifters is at the Bush Theatre until 30 March 2024