Insomniac (Blue Glass Theatre) 2021 Toronto Fringe Review

Poster for Insomniac from the 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival

Late-night overthinking and intrusive thoughts… Google rabbit holes of illnesses you do not have… Insomniac, produced by Blue Glass Theatre, playing on-demand at the 2021 Virtual Toronto Fringe Festival, follows one woman’s late-night rants about her trouble sleeping and the contrasting and often unhelpful sleep aid advice found on the internet, like don’t look at your phone but use this sleep app! Or, make a cup of herbal tea, but avoid any bright lights at night… How is one to do so when pouring scalding hot water?!

This piece is a minimalistic and amateur-vlog-style performance written, produced and performed by Alexis Coward. Her late-night rants are broken up with shot after shot of boiling water pouring over herbal tea bags. These eventually turn into wine being poured in a wine glass, as the actress falls off the bandwagon of sleep advice and just does it her way, a relatable cycle for anyone who struggles with sleep. As the poster states, ‘because 3 am really is the best time to review your life…’. I can relate, as many can, especially over the past year of Covid lockdowns. 

Although a relatable problem for many, I found that the piece was missing some of the ambiences that could have been used in its vlog-style setting. The work mostly takes place in a starkly, fully lit bedroom, with Alexis sitting straight up on a bed. I would have loved to have seen some more creative changes to lighting, camera angles, uses of time-lapses and unhinged or unscripted late-night rants to make it all the more believable. The content of the monologues has some interesting facts about sleep. My favorite is her take on how we need to pretend to sleep to actually fall asleep, which, as she states, both makes no sense and all the sense at the same time. 

Overall, this is a great start to a work-in-process (as the credits at the end of the work announce). I would love to see the creator dive deeper into the personal, especially if it remains in a digital space where audiences can get up close and personal – but only if you let them.

Details

  • Insomniac is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
  • Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
  • Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
  • Accessibility notes:
    • On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
    • Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
  • Content warning: Parental Guidance, insomnia is related to anxiety and as such viewers should be advised anxiety is inferred to in the show.

Photo courtesy of the company, designed and created by Alexis Coward.

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