Rossum’s Universal Robots

Rossum’s Universal Robots

A musical adaptation of Karel Capek’s R.U.R.


A musical reinvention of Karel Capek's darkly comic sci-fi masterpiece

First published in 1921, Karel Capek's ultra-prescient play R.U.R has become a classic of dystopian literature, giving us the word 'robot' and inspiring movies and TV series from Blade Runner to Westworld. Set in Capek's 1920s version of the future, this radio reimagining blends music, comedy and drama to tell the story of a world dominated by mechanisation and the pursuit of profit.

It is the year 2000, and an incredible new technology - the robot - has been invented, freeing human beings from the need to work. Grown from human cells, these androids appear identical to humans - only stronger and cleverer. They have no free will and no desires. They want nothing - until the idealistic Lady Helen visits their island factory and persuades one of the scientists to instil consciousness into them. But once sentient, the robots become aware that they have unwittingly enabled a runaway cycle of overproduction, which is now wrecking the planet. There is only one logical solution: humanity must be destroyed...

Tackling big, contentious questions with a light touch, this moving production is full of humour and heart. Made by the team behind the award-winning Magnitsky the Musical, it features an immersive, retro-futurist soundscape and stunning original songs, and stars an ensemble cast including Paul Chahidi (The Death of Stalin, This Country), Jasmine Hyde (Doctors) and Paul Hilton (Slow Horses).

Also included is a fascinating episode of Radio 3's Sunday Feature, The Robots Are Us, in which Ken Hollings examines the creation and legacy of R.U.R, talking to historians and roboticists to discover how Capek's landmark play gave birth to the idea of the 'revolt of the machines' and presaged our 21st Century ethical conundrums of existence, rights and reasoning.

Domin - Paul Chahidi
Lady Helen - Jasmine Hyde
Radius - Paul Hilton
Helen 2 - Clare Foster
Alpha - Anneika Rose
Brown Owl - Neil McCaul
Alquist - Matthew Durkan
Sulla - Alexandra Hannant
Fabry - Michael Begley
Busman - Tayla Kovacevic-Ebong
Logicbot/Benoit - Chris Jack

Music and Lyrics by Susannah Pearse
Book by Robert Hudson
Arrangements and Musical Direction: Harry Sever
Production co-ordinator: Luke MacGregor
Sound: Peter Ringrose
Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko
First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 3-10 April 2022

© 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

About the authors

Karel Capek

Karel Capek was a Czech writer who is best known for his 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). The play was Capek's first international success, introduced the word 'robot' to the English language and was one of the works that pioneered the theme of robots in fiction. The idea of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human became a popular one in future science fiction tales such as Asimov's I, Robot and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Capek also wrote many other works of fiction and non-fiction, including detective stories, fairytales and travel books. His most important works, such as The Tales from Two Pockets and the trilogy Hordubal, Meteor and An Ordinary Life, deal with epistemology (the study of knowledge). A fervent anti-fascist and anti-communist, Capek campaigned for freedom of expression and was a member of the International PEN Club. He died of double pneumonia on Christmas Day 1938, aged 48.
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Robert Hudson

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Susannah Pearse

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