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Show Reviews & Social Media

Prof.Dr. Calum MacKellar - Biomedical Ethics Film Library

The play entitled Expiration Date takes place 100 years in the future, where life, as we know it, is radically different and where the possibility of uploading oneself into a computer, as suggested by the prominent futurist Ray Kurzweil, has become a reality.

Written by US based playwright Rose-Marie Brandwein and Directed by Cheryl King, the play was performed by the Picaresque Players Theatre Company which performed from the 3rd to the 24th of August 2013 at the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe in Scotland.

In the play, Mildred wants to die a natural death on her 150th birthday but her family and friends try to convince her to upload herself, instead, into a computer and transition into a new entity, a People-Pod. Arguments ensue for and against this new form of non-biological existence and whether it is a worthwhile 'life'. Albert, her cyborg 'son' (who was created from the remains of her deceased biological son) is the most vocal about wanting his 'mother' to join Arthur (Mildred's husband and Arthur's 'father' who has already uploaded himself into a People-Pod) in order to keep the family intact. Arthur is also supportive of the idea (who speaks through a video screen) as are old friends, Burt and Alice (who speak through their own video screens). But will Mildred accept a new virtual life and run away from the reality of an authentic death?

The play examines, with a lot of US east-cost humour, many of the philosophical and ethical questions relating to the possibility of living either in reality or cyber-space. Issues of kinship and humanity are also considered which encourage the members of the public to think through some of the problems that may either arise in the future or that they may already be experiencing. This includes, for example, the already common prospect of encountering a zombified person completely cut off from the outside world through the use of his or her laptop and earphones. It also raises the very important question of identity and who we are in a world which is increasingly connected to the web. A world where other (physically present) friends and family together with anything natural and 'real' are becoming a rare occurrence.

This is the first play I have encountered about the possibility of persons being able to upload themselves into a virtual world. As such, it is a pioneering serio-comic presentation about some of the issues relating to what it means to be human. It is also very accessible to members of the general public and would be an excellent tool to encourage them to reflect about some of the consequential issues raised by an ever greater connectedness to cyber-space.

- Broadway Baby

Welcome to 2113 and to another play set in the not-really-that-distant future. It’s Mildred’s birthday. She is turning 150. She’s had enough and wants to kill herself but her cyborg son wants her to ‘transition’ into a PPod (a People Pod - that is, essentially, to live on as an existence in a computer screen). Touching on interesting ideas about the negative developments of convenience-driven technology, human interaction and what makes life worth living for after 150 years.

A simple but curious set creates the sense of a room, divided by tape on the floor, including a desk and remnants of a computer, a sofa and a table in the corner supporting 3 computer screens, one of which contains footage of a man speaking silently and then starting to doze off. Mildred (Jean Brookner), the birthday girl, and her son, Albert (V. Orion Delwaterman) talk about Mildred’s imminent birthday celebration. Mildred is keen to reminisce, representing the past, whereas Albert is a strong advocate of the benefits of the present developments and future possibilities. The interactions between mother-and-son are entertaining, with strong performances on both sides, particularly Brookner, who carries off the stubborn and mischievous character of Mildred with conviction and consistency and is the most enjoyable to watch. Filled with nostalgia for the ‘true beauty’ of the past, Mildred relives memories, trying to help Albert understand the value of the natural over the artificial and manufactured.

The most unique part about this production I found were the PPods played on the computer screens and to which the actors performed in time. These performances were highly amusing at times and added something really distinctive to the piece as a whole.

Good fun and with some interesting use of set and great acting performances, Expiration Date is a pleasant way to spend an hour of your afternoon at the Fringe.

- Scotsman

Who wants to live forever? Not Mildred, a woman approaching her 150th birthday in the year 2113; a place where everyone is kept alive by “enhancements” or can swap their bodies for a virtual existence inside “People Pods”.

Her husband Arthur has already been digitalised, as have all her friends. We see them on screens. It’s a bit like Dennis Potter’s Cold Lazarus, a bit like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series. And, while suicide might seem like the obvious escape, Mildred’s son Albert is working on something that even takes away that option.

While it’s a familiar kind of dystopian set-up, performed in the contrastingly period setting of a red-carpeted, wood-panelled room at The Merchants’ Hall, it’s one that has an engaging, thought-provoking and succinct story well-delivered by the cast – both those on stage and those performing via screens.

Is giving up your body a worthwhile sacrifice for immortality? What would life be like without it? Through rattling dialogue, a compelling family relationship and some nicely observed comedy, writer Rose-Marie Brandwein asks us all to consider these questions.

At a time when we’re getting older and medical advancements are ever-improving, it’s a pertinent piece.


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…

Brian J. Robb

Picaresque Players Theatre Company

Expiration Date

Sat 3rd - Sun 11th
Tues 13th - Mon 19th
Wed 21 - Sat 24th August
4.15pm (50mins)

From USA

Expiration Date takes place 100 years in the future, where life as we know it is radically different.

Our protagonist Mildred wants to expire on her 150th birthday but her family and friends try to convince her to transition into another entity, a People-Pod.

Arguments ensue for and against this new form of life and future living. Albert, her son, is the most vocal about wanting her to join Arthur (her husband and his father) as a People-Pod in order to keep the family intact.

Old friends, Burt and Alice join in, adding elements of complexity and surprise.

£8.50 (£8.00)

Group discount: 10% off for groups of 10+
2for1 on Mon 5th & Tues 6th
Friends of Fringe: 2 for 1 anytime – only available from Fringe Box Office

Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall
Venue 278. 22 Hanover Street. EH2 2EP

Just up from National Gallery. Venue Box Office: 0131 220 5911

Click here for map of the venue