Review: Expiration Date

expiration-dateEdinburgh Festival Fringe until 24 August (Not 12 or 20)

It’s 100 years in the future, 2113, and 150-year-old Mildred has a decision to make: should she “transition” to digital life, like many of her friends and family, or would she rather “expire” in the way people used to…

Expiration Date is an interesting science fiction chamber piece (written by Rose-Marie Brandwein), essentially a two-hander between Mildred (Jean Brookner) and her “son” Albert (V. Orion Delwaterman). She’s facing her final birthday before the state requires her to “transition” to a “People Pod”, where she can live on in a kind of digital afterlife. Mildred is a woman who clings to the past, who prefers the “old” way of doing things, even if that includes death, natural or not. Her son doesn’t understand, he can’t comprehend nostalgia. It’s not clear what age he is (appearance in this future world is no indicator of actual age, thanks to artificial enhancements), but there’s also something a little “off” about him…

Albert and Mildred are joined by three others (who only appear on screens), two friends and her husband who have already transitioned. Her son is throwing a birthday party Mildred doesn’t want to have, and her friends and family cannot understand her reluctance to do what everyone else does, to transition.

Well-read fans of science fiction may not find many of the ideas in Expiration Date to be new, but they are presented with conviction in a classic Victorian room in Edinburgh’s ancient Merchant’s Hall, with the scowling paintings of many of the city’s past “great and good” lining the corridor to the venue. Perhaps the decor is fighting against the depiction of a sterile future world, but it also adds something, as if the text fighting with the surroundings fits thematically with the piece.

The performances all work well, but the appearance of the disembodied heads on the screens might be enhanced if the audience could not also see the actors through an open door (an opening night issue that might be revised in the later performances). Everyone seemed confident enough in their roles, and any occasional stumbling over lines might also be put down to first performance nerves.

Verdict: A thoughtful piece that presents a future that may not be too far removed from our own, but raises issues some of the audience might face in their or their children’s lifetimes…

Expiration Date: 7/10

Brian J. Robb

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