R.U.R - reading

Karel Capek's play RUR - Rossum's Universal Robots was written in the 1920s. Capek was a prolific author and wrote several other plays and short stories that could be described as science fiction, but RUR is the piece that cemented his place in SF history - by inventing the word "robot".

Robot comes from the Czech "robota", meaning something like "forced labour" and referring to dull repetitive work. Like all good science fiction, there's a strong dramatic metaphor at work - in Capek's case, the growing conflict between communism and capitalism in the aftermath of the First World War. And like all good science fiction, RUR has outlived its original political metaphor to take on new resonances in a new century, as the cloning and nano-technologies he described so fancifully (and sketchily) are being realised.

Our new version of RUR is updated to a near-future that matches the one Capek originally wrote of – one not so far from our own. If you know RUR well, you'll notice some characters have been merged, some cut, and plot sequences have been moved around a little, but the basics are still there.

We want to thank Ivor Benjamin for the script and direction and the fantastic cast for this reading are:

  • Tamzin Aitken (Helena)
  • Jessica Manley (Sulla / Robot Helena)
  • Jan Goodman (Prof Gall)
  • Ivor Benjamin (Robot Radius)
  • Ben Moor (Burman)
  • Richard Turner (Alquist)
  • Phil Mann (Domin / Robot Primus)

We shall continue work on this play and plan to stage it at SFL10 in April 2011.

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BTW, we also filmed this as part of an event at the Royal Society. We had real robots and their creators there and a packed house - video will be online soon.

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