Review By Lisa Lanzi
I’m delighted to say that much of my Adelaide Fringe-going adventures this year have seen me attending female-led productions. Expiration Date by Lana Filies is another addition to the list.
Performed by Lana Filies and Flynn Mapplebeck this play is a theatrical microcosm of our world; women are forced to negotiate the fallout of choice, need versus want, work versus career, and independence versus ‘settling’. The staging is deliberately claustrophobic, for the most part confined to a broken down elevator. That the protagonists had a relationship becomes clear but the reasons for the split are teased out over the course of the hour. Both male and female views are explored and toward the end centred around the topic of abortion from a pro-choice standpoint. Each character states their views, their whys and ifs, but ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is a decision left for the audience to ponder.
The two actors are excellent in their interpretation of the roles and have the tricky skill of talking over each other down to a fine art. After the initial shocks of seeing each other and subsequently the stalling of the lift, both characters swing from snark to more familiar, relaxed repartee and back again. Sometimes the tone is teasing, at others the rage shows. As the two banter about shared acquaintances, the families they were once tied to by virtue of the relationship, and old habits, it is clear that what they once had was mostly contented. After in jokes about various friends and the dog they briefly shared one meaty piece of information is uncovered and tempers flare.
Possibly due to a connection with her own writing, Lana Filies’ character is exceptionally strong, well defined, and articulate but ultimately very vulnerable. We find out a little more about this person than we do Mapplebeck’s character and though each persona has differing memories of shared occasions it is the male who initially seems more accepting and certain of the new status quo. His emotional impact is strongest toward the end where grief and shock about an abortion is revealed.
The majority of the play takes place within an elevator which is represented by some wall-mounted buttons, solid, dark background and a rectangular, white boundary taped on the floor. This is a very effective device to set the action within but some sightlines were not great and just occasionally, that boundary was broken by the actors or by a wayward prop. On the whole, direction by Lily Hayman was tight and pacing was excellent. The marking of time passing in this admittedly hideous situation was elegantly simple: stage lights blinked off then on, games of RockPaperScissors and Truth or Dare kept returning with rising levels of frustration and a repeated theme regarding the female’s work presentation.
Expiration Date was written in the wake of the devastating overturn of the Roe V Wade decision in America. The vitally important themes within the play are those that we need to continue many conversations about. Sydney-based Purple Tape Productions is run by Lily Hayman and Tyler Fitzpatrick with the aim of uplifting female identifying voices in the theatre, and long may this continue. They brought Expiration Date to the Adelaide Fringe and it will have another season in Sydney very soon. Look out for it!