EFR - Reviews of complex

complex

Mon 10th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Isabella Goldstein

at 21:02 on 19th Aug 2015

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This play was certainly complex, though sadly not in the positive sense of the word. The delivery of the piece and audience engagement were confused and would have benefited from greater clarity, whilst the central character’s emotional journey and revelation, the part of the play that should have lived up to its ‘complex’ billing, was predictable and cliché.

Whilst writer, director and performer Yuya Ishizone does well at peeling back the layers of his character, the 'deeper meaning' which we are meant to have uncovered by the end of the performance ultimately fails to materialise. In the description of the show the company claim that “the next episode of the story will begin after you walk out of the theatre” – ironically it is precisely this failure to keep us guessing, or even interested, which lets the show down.

The play begins with an almost bare stage. Ishizone walks in, anxious and pensive, he hangs his head and sighs before taking his seat and checking his online job applications, surprised to find he has an interview which will begin by video immediately.

There is a genuine sense of mystery as he implores the unhelpful interviewer to tell him what is going on, but the clearer the message becomes the more the show’s lack of originality is emphasised.

As we learn more about the character – his status as a quiet social outsider, his mother complex, his self-pitying tales of his wife’s cruelty – we begin to appreciate the picture Ishizone is attempting to paint.

Nonetheless, empathy is stunted by the lack of character development, we are given his version of the facts but his narration is unreliable, and without any separate authority to confirm or deny we are deprived of the chance to develop an opinion either way.

There were some issues with the script too, I felt that too many of the character’s answers to the interviewer’s questions about his life amounted to mere description. His monologues often dragged on, were difficult to follow or were quite simply inconsequential to the journey which was meant to be unfolding on stage.

Ishizone displays many marks of a talented actor – he had a great grasp of timing and the power of facial expression, and could portray emotion movingly and convincingly – however his focus upon the computer in front of him made it difficult to fully engage with his performance. There also seemed to be somewhat of a language barrier, which sometimes resulted in communication issues.

Complex is a well-meant attempt at using a mysterious authority as a mode for representing psychological turmoil, however, it is too stereotypical of its genre and wrestles unsuccessfully with overdone themes. The result is a show that has potential as a concept, but is in need of a major revamp.

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Luke Howarth

at 11:42 on 20th Aug 2015

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Yuuya Ishizone’s protagonist is a desperate man. If his stubble and dirty leisurewear didn’t make that clear, his forty minutes onstage is conducted in a panting frenzy - every development in the play seemingly swelling his bewilderment. Headphones clamped into place, the father and divorcee soon-to-be is being interviewed via FaceTime for a mysterious job. Our vantage point, of course, just yields a glowing Apple logo; the interrogator remains voiceless and faceless, mediated via Ishizone throughout.

Those who saw News Junkie at last year’s Fringe might find this description surprisingly familiar. It is. Ishizone has recycled the concept of a one-sided conversation, plagued by worthlessness and isolation, with little success. In fact, this sense of stale ideas becomes perhaps the principal theme in the play; a strict mother, a depressed father, a divorce, a battle for custody. We know the story. It is difficult to identify a character who isn’t attempting to live vicariously through their offspring, as the inevitability of familial emulation is trotted out again and again. ‘Complex’ is very misleading.

The motif of ‘half-dialogue’ can be captivating. It is believed that the final chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses was partly inspired by an overheard phone-call; Joyce’s neighbour apparently said the word ‘yes’ six consecutive times, each with a different inflection. Ishizone’s play, on the other hand, is a tedious and unrealistic exercise in didacticism; the invisible interviewer is seldom given sufficient time to ask their questions before they are repeated by our unhappy protagonist in a practice that seems to defeat the point of using the form entirely.

Ishizone performs with conviction, but nuance eludes him. There is a linguistic barrier that means the dialogue is continually playing catch-up; the pressure on physical expression is intensified by a palpable difficulty in handling the script. As a consequence, without a remarkably derivative plot, keeping up with the action could have been a challenge. Admittedly, an attempt at subverting expectations occurs at a late stage in the play; while this proves refreshing in the context of a hackneyed and poorly told story, it is unlikely to impress anyone that has read J B Priestly, and, regardless, does little to redeem a severely flawed show.

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