Complex (Complex Collective) 2014 SummerWorks Review


Saturday saw the opening of Complex, a show presented by Complex Collective in partnership with The Koffler Centre of the Arts. Playing as part of the SummerWorks Festival, this piece had some neat elements and interesting concepts.  Unfortunately, they didn’t always hit the mark.

It’s difficult to tackle a show that deals with stereotyping, mental illness, poverty or class issues. It’s even more difficult to perform a work that includes all of those things, as this one does. Though the story itself is quite compelling, I felt the issues weren’t always treated with the sensitivity and tact they require.

There were some very creative lighting and set ideas, which helped to make up for the minimal use of props. I did wonder why there were a few physical props used while the majority of them were mimed, but I was still able to follow the actions of the actors. The show could have used far fewer scene changes, especially since the dialogue itself was strong enough to make it clear what room the characters were in.  I felt the many scene changes dropped the energy in the show and interrupted the flow of the story.

There was one very effective scene, however, that involved two characters lying in bed, but doing so while standing upright. Both Sarah (Emily Piggford) and Jonah (Tim Walker) had the posture and physical positioning down perfectly, and I quite enjoyed the outcome of that choice.

Piggford was the show’s standout, and gave a really lovely performance. Though her character often said the wrong thing, and even crossed a few lines, she played her in a very honest, likeable way, which allowed the audience to empathize with her. She carried the story along nicely and shifted with ease between the many emotions her character experienced throughout the show.

In a memorable scene between Piggford’s Sarah and Darren (Mazin Elsadig), she, as his math tutor, explains why she loves numbers so much. Math, she muses, is easier to think about than life because it’s very black and white. Math and numbers always provide a simple answer – a right or a wrong.  Though life is often confusing and difficult, numbers provide an escape into a world where things make sense and problems always have solutions.

Ironically, I think a bit of problem solving is just what this show needs.  I would have loved to have seen a bit more empathy between the characters, especially given their varied issues, and a bit more growth in them throughout the show. The ending just didn’t sit right with me, but with a bit of reworking and resolution, Complex could become, quite simply, a very unique and powerful show.


Complex plays at Lower Ossington Theatre Studio (100A Ossington Avenue)

Show Times:

Sunday August 10, 9:00pm
Monday August 11, 6:30pm
Tuesday August 12, 6:00pm
Wednesday August 13, 8:00pm
Friday August 15, 10:00pm
Saturday August 16, 3:30pm
Sunday August 17, 12:30pm

All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only).  Tickets are available online at, by phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo of Emily Piggford by Giordano Ciampini