Review: Expiration Date at Meraki

The “two people get locked in an elevator” premise is a tale as old as time (or elevators). Gossip Girl, You’ve Got Mail, Veronica Mars: they all did it. What better way to make two characters who don’t want to talk to each other, talk to each other?

On top of being a great romantic setup for film and TV, its also a very clever and simple concept for a touring theatre production set entirely in a lift, as executed by Purple Tape Production in their play Expiration Date, which has arrived at Sydney’s Meraki theatre after a run at Adelaide Fringe earlier this year. Designer Tyler Fitzpatrick should be applauded for the sophisticated simplicity of this elevator set.

Written by and starring Lana Filies, directed by Lily Hayman and produced by Purple Tape Productions (a collaboration between Hayman and Fitzpatrick), the 55 minute one-location play offers a contemporary feminist take on the romcom trope of the career-focused woman who doesn’t want kids.

A man (Flynn Mapplebeck) and a woman (Filies) have broken up recently after seven years of dating. She wanted to prioritise her career, he wanted a family: it’s a familiar setup. When they get stuck in an elevator after a few months apart, they are forced to rehash the reasons for their separation, as the forced intimacy of the lift brings loaded secrets to the surface.

For a first time playwright passionate about exploring contemporary feminist issues, I believed Filies succeeded in creating a story that prompted viewers to consider the difficult dilemma of being in a long term relationship when partners disagree about wanting kids.

Although marketed as a contemporary, edgy take on the rom-com genre, the show wasn’t as funny as I expected, and functioned much more effectively as a drama. As a comedy, the writing, performance and directing didn’t fully hit the mark and the opening 15 minutes were clunky. Filies performance was big and broad and reminded me of something that would work better on a big stage during a musical theatre show, and not the intimate Meraki space where you are never more than 3 metres from stage.

Once the story stepped away from comedy and entered the juicier ‘two-handed drama’ territory, the show picked up. The final 20 minutes were a thoughtful and heated scene about a couple rehashing the end of their long-term, and the morality of keeping an abortion secret from your partner.

Filies’ made the smart writing decision of making the male character sympathetic and likeable, making audiences understand the sadness of his situation. At different times over the play you feel sympathetic towards both characters. She faithfully explored the challenge of being in a relationship where the man wants kids and the woman doesn’t—there’s no inherent ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’: it’s just a tough situation.

The problem with writing a story about a woman who is staunch about not wanting kids is that it limits the dramatic directions that a play can go (no matter how reasonable her decision is). Consequently, the exploration of a women wanting to focus on their career, not kids, felt a bit superficial and stereotyped at times. Additionally, the marketing discusses how the writer was inspired by the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but the play is set in Australia, where the cultural stigma surrounding abortions today is not as fraught, making the stakes of the play a little confusing.

Although obviously the work of a playwright who is still finding her voice, I think it is an admirable debut play that discusses important feminist issues. I’m sure that many couples in their twenties and thirties will find Expiration Date relatable in its exploration of the difficult conversations regarding having or not having kids. The one-location storytelling and brilliantly simple set were perfectly engineered for indie theatre, and the creative team should be applauded for achieving more with less.

Jo Bradley


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s