Are you ready to dive into a heartbreakingly hilarious tale of two people whose lives spin around each other? Des, played by Heather Agyepong and Dre, played by Tosin Cole, met at school and formed an inseparable bond. But as they navigate through life's twists and turns, they can't shake off the feeling that they might not be on the right path.

Written by Benedict Lombe, Shifters is 'a fierce new romance for anyone desperate for a different kind of love story.' Alongside a plot that questions if destiny exists is a story full of modern references and contemporary styling. A show can rarely feel honest and relatable to an audience, as if an audience is watching their friends on stage, but Shifters achieved this. 

Regularly throughout the show, the audience was moved to celebrate or gasped in shock as Lombe's genius ability to create a sincere text was translated to the stage by Evening Standard Theatre Award-winning director Lynette Linton.

Shifters, a two-person, one-act play, takes you on a journey through their past and present. 

The scenes shift seamlessly from when they first met to the present day, where Dre (Cole) has just buried his grandmother. When Des (Agyepong) returns to his life, they are forced to confront their past and present and wonder if destiny is pulling them back together for a reason.

Agyepong and Cole's performances shine as the play progresses, welcoming the audience into their characters' lives with every minor line and expression. The minimalist set designed by Alex Barry, consisting solely of tiny boxes at Dre's deceased grandma's house, soon transforms into a graduation party. Utilising boxes reflects the characters' growth and willingness to open up to each other. With no bulky set to distract, the audience's focus is solely on the characters, their story, and the poetic words of the script by Benedict Lombe.

Morphing between the scenes is a moment of narration as the internal monologue of the characters comes out and is spoken directly to the audience. Each speech could have easily been a poem that captured their feelings at that moment being poured onto the stage for perfect observation. Each audience member was captivated by a few words of humble enlightenment before being thrust back into a scene to see how the next pivotal moment of these characters' lives would play out. This way of jumping between time and places was done extremely efficiently and is a prime example of excellent contemporary playwriting.

Shifters is a ride of emotions, making you laugh and cry within seconds. 

As more details about their intertwined lives are revealed, the audience gets closer to the characters, feeling their bond. Cheering when you finally hear those words and gasping at the words left unsaid.

Neil Austin's lighting design determined each period with a custom hue. The soft blend of oranges or an ombre of red and green during their more innocent times as youths was contrasted to the stark white of the present day that only highlighted their shadows.

Along with XANA's composition and Tony Gale's sound design, the sensory experience is completed, engaging the audience's senses and lifting each scene from the stage. The Shifters score, featuring contemporary culture and melodic tones, takes you on an emotional journey you will remember for a while.

Get ready to experience a truly innovative and stereotype-breaking play that will leave you wanting more. As the show ended, the overwhelming feeling of sighing was audible. The story's tension and drive maintained the audience's breath so well that you could hear it being released as the lights went down.

This show was reviewed on the 23rd February 2024 at the Bush Theatre where it runs until the 30th March 2024.  Tickets available here: Shifters | Bush Theatre

Review written by Ryan Lenney


Photo credit: Mark Senior

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