OLD BRIDGE | London, Bush Theatre

Old Bridge begins in Mostar, Bosnia in 1988, and although the setting is novel, the tone is familiar. Flirting, banter, a shirtless hunk: we are firmly in rom-com territory. Were it not for the extreme likeability of the actors, there would be something saccharine about this teen love story. As it is, their charisma and freshness make every glib retort feel true and familiar.

Wearing ripped jeans and crop tops, and speaking in idiomatic London English, the characters of Old Bridge might just as easily be friends you knew at uni and have only this moment realised you’d forgotten. This only multiplies the agony as we watch their joy and ambition being blown away, shell by shell. Mili (Dino Kelly) is Catholic; Mina (Saffron Coomber) and her friends, vaguely Muslim. As the play begins, anyone who hadn’t read the programme might legitimately believe that this doesn’t much matter.

The “old bridge” – the Medieval edifice joining the two soon-to-be-contested halves of Mostar – is the setting for their love story. However, the bulk of the play takes place in Mili’s small apartment, which becomes increasingly claustrophobic as the Bosnian War transforms their idyll into a wasteland.

Old Bridge is not an easy watch. You will not leave the theatre with a smile on your face. But it is utterly riveting, and incredibly, inescapably human. Bring tissues.

Playing 21 October – 20 November 2021 at the Bush Theatre near Shepherd’s Bush.

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