Lungbarrow’s Insomnia by Aidas Zvirblis is a quirky, enjoyable addition to DDF with some clever moments of writing and tech. Centred around the character of Carrie played by Giorgia Laird, we follow her through a night of her insomnia, with the her thoughts, fears and desires visiting her in the form of different individual characters, each with their own distinct colour scheme. One of the show’s jokes acknowledges that this show is essentially Inside Out, and I must admit the idea isn’t particularly original, but it follows a format that works to create an interesting and enjoyable show. Laird plays a sweet, awkward and relatable 25-year-old who can’t seem to commit herself to any goal in life, has an obsessive knowledge of Dr. Who, and is unwilling to let go of her childhood. As the show progresses, it becomes clear the characters she conjures up in her imagination are her coping mechanisms that allow her to deal with childhood trauma. The ‘Lungbarrow’ of the title refers to the kind of happy place she attempts and fails to construct inside her own head, based on the title a book her grandmother gave to her and from whom most of her insecurities about being unloved originate. It is unclear as to whether Carrie has some kind of mental illness like schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder, or if these are just the conflicted emotions of a young adult trying to reconcile herself with the fact that she will probably never achieve her childhood ambitions.
The individual characters of Carrie’s mind all have distinctly different and exaggerated characterization, helping the show maintain audience’s interest. A standout performance is delivered by Thomas Bracewell as ‘Yellow’, the detached, rational part of Carrie’s mind that wants her to focus on herself and her goals. Bracewell is sarcastic, swathe and effortlessly funny. Joe Pape as ‘Green’ who represents the chilled part of Carrie’s personality also offers hilarious characterization as a stoner, and the scene with him and Laird singing to Bob Marley had the audience almost crying with laughter. Esther Levin offers an offset to these comedic heightened characters, playing the more clinical ‘White’ who it is revealed is a manifestation of Carrie’s mother with whom she has a tempestuous relationship. Similarly, Layla Chowdhury’s naturalistic portrayal of down-to-earth pragmatic ‘Grey’ offers the comfort and encouragement that Carrie seems to lack, as she is the only character who really seems to want to help Carrie. She both is and is not a representation of Carrie’s childhood friend Nadia, and this demonstrates where the show became unclear for me, as I wasn’t sure whether these characters were aspects of Carrie’s personality, warped versions of real people from her past, or some combination of both.
The show is visually creative, with different coloured lights used to help emphasize the emotion conveyed by each imaginary character. There are also some clever moments of storytelling; we begin to see the unreliability of Carrie’s narration, as she remolds her memories to try and justify her decisions, reliving them over and over with the command ‘replay’. In her emotional dialogue with ‘White’, it is suggested that she has made up memories of her mother’s abuse to have someone to blame for her failures. This challenges the extent to which we as an audience can sympathize with the central character, presenting a fascinating portrayal of the way we suppress and manipulate emotions to suit ourselves. However, some moments of writing feel forced or tacky, with on-the-nose reminders that these characters are all in Carrie’s head. The scene where all the imaginary characters crowd around Carrie shouting insults also feels rather cliched to me.
This show presents a barrage of characters and emotions, going from comical to serious in the mere blink of an eye. I feel it masters both of these genres and plays them against each other well to present a compelling insight into the mess that lies within a human mind.