R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek
RUR: Rise of the Robot God
Matinee performance: February 13 at 11:30 a.m.
Music by Steve Chan
in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre, Brock University
Karel Capek invented the word ‘robot’ in 1920s Czechoslovakia and the world has never been the same since. Our updated version of this Marxist robot melodrama features lots of bots and borgs, an apocalyptic vision of the future, and, of course, a theremin. Come witness the robot apocalypse!
In Rossum’s Universal Robots (1920), Karel Capek invites us into an uncertain future in which the world is overrun by mass-produced robots. Although their makers hoped these machines would free human beings from the bondage of labour, instead, the robots mimic their makers and resort to war against all humans. This play is a precursor to so much subsequent science fiction dealing with artificial intelligence—from Star Trek to Terminator, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Her. Like these later stories, the play deals with the anxieties of creating artificial life-forms, the awe in the face of robot power and possibility, and the fear of the end of human life on the planet.
In the play, Rossum’s robot factory is visited by President Glory’s daughter Helena, a robot emancipationist. She attempts to convince the other humans working at the plant that the robots deserve their own freedom. Instead, she never leaves the factory, marries into the Rossum clan, and is present when the robot genocide of humans takes place. The final humans on the planet struggle to understand what has gone wrong. At a time of increasing technologization of labour and the becoming-digital of many people’s daily lives in the Economic North, this production offers an opportunity to imagine different futures beyond the ‘mechanization of everything.’
A study guide will be available for download after January 25th, 2015.