Review: Lungbarrow’s Insomnia


DDF’s Lungbarrow’s Insomnia is a beautifully written and skilfully performed original play, written by Aidas Zvirblis, and directed by both Zvirblis himself and Sophie Cullis. As the play progresses, the audience is taken through the late-night thoughts of Carrie (Giorgia Laird), from her fantasies to her memories to the very truths she wants to keep hidden from the world. 

Blends dream and reality into a single gripping narrative

Before anything else, praise must be given to Zvirblis’ writing. This is a compelling investigation into the mind of an existentially oriented insomniac. Such an introspective topic could easily lend itself to uninteresting monologues or monotonous repetition of the same ideas again and again, but that is certainly not the case here. The audience is wrapped up in what is happening on stage and there aren’t any significant breaks in the progression of the play. It is effectively structured around the hours remaining in the night and the introduction of new characters who embody different figments of her imagination, immediately refreshing and reinvigorate the performance repeatedly. All of this is a testament to Zvirblis’ excellent script-writing, and his ability to blend dream and reality into a single gripping narrative.

That being said, the actors’ performances also play a significant role in why this play is so captivating.  Laird’s performance as Carrie is particularly notable, moving from one emotion to another seamlessly and never missing a beat. She embodies the character of a sleep-deprived, despondent, self-hating yet hopeful twenty-something year-old perfectly, and plays off the other actors well, both for comedic and dramatic purposes.

It is in these dialogues with Laird that the other actors excel. She and Alex Comaish (Red) deftly set the tone of the play with their convincingly flirtatious interactions, which are matched in their humour by dialogues with Thomas Bracewell (Yellow), Joe Pape (Green), and Rahul Shah (Purple). Bracewell is perhaps not as consistent, speaking a little quickly and indistinctly to begin with, but he soon fills out his character and gets some of the biggest laughs of the play. Antonia Hogan (Orange), Esther Levin (White) and Layla Chowdhury (Grey) are not as instantly compelling either, but they also embody their characters exceptionally and provide the gravitas that their more seriously introspective interactions require. Levin’s impassioned speech is particularly good here, there are times where interplay between multiple characters can get a little muddled and takes away from the audience’s immersion, but these are few and far between.

Compelling delve into the psyche

In terms of staging, the play is an efficient affair, as there is just a bed on stage with minimal props. The same can be said for the lighting and the costume, both of which are stripped-back and used sparingly. This is an effective choice, as the staging and costume match the play’s introspective nature. The matching of coloured lighting with characters’ costumes is beneficial to the flow of the performance, subtly developing the idea of an internal dialogue while not intruding on the interaction between characters. That being said, the production is not perfect: the strobe lighting and the sporadic use of voice-over are both a little jarring and seem to interrupt the play’s progression unnecessarily. These are minor issues, though. 

Overall, then, Lungbarrow’s Insomnia is a compelling delve into the psyche which incites the audience to think about their own view of the world. It certainly strikes at the heart of those of us who Carrie pointedly describes as ‘vague-dream pursuers,’ though it does provide a little comfort that we are not the only ones up at 4am unable to stop our ruminations. I would definitely recommend going to see this play in the next few days if you have a chance.

You can see Lungbarrow’s Insomnia in General Programme 3 of the Durham Drama Festival 2020, at the Mark Hillery Arts Centre, Collingwood College, on the 7th and 8th of February.

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