A fantastic melodrama by Karel Capek. Opened at St. Martin's Theatre, London, April 24, 1923. Produced by Basil Dean. Scenery designed by George W. Harris.

Cast of characters

Harry Domain Basil Rathbone
Sulla (a Robotess) Beatrix Thomson
Marius (a Robot) Gilbert Ritchie
Helena Glory Frances Carson
Dr. Gall Charles V. France
Mr. Alquist Brember Wills
Jacob Berman Malcolm Keen
Emma Ada King
Radius (a Robot) Leslie Banks
Helena (a Robotess) Olga Lindo
Primus (a Robot) Ian Hunter
Other Robots Lawrence Baskcomb, Leslie Perrins, Alan Howland, Charles Cornock, Roy Leaker, Hugh Williams, George Cowley, Hugh Sinclair, Ernest Digges, David Franklin, Geoffrey Dunlop, Frederick Fanton, Cyril McLaglan, Caswell Garth
Act I Domain's Room in the Offices of Rossum's Universal Robots
Act II Helena's Drawing Room, ten years later (morning)
Act III The same, towards sundown
Act IV A Laboratory, one year later
Setting: The Place is an Island, the Time is the Future

R.U.R. is a story of the world’s repopulation with artificial beings. Rathbone plays Harry Domain, the manager of Rossum's Universal Robots, a company that manufactures robots by the thousands and ships them all over the world. The robots look exactly like humans, but they have no soul, no feelings. They are being used as laborers, so that human beings will no longer have to toil. Harry Domain predicts:

"In ten years Rossum's Universal Robots will produce so much corn, so much cloth, so much everything, that things will be practically without price. There will be no poverty. All work will be done by living machines. Everybody will be free from worry and liberated from the degradation of labor. Everybody will live only to perfect himself."

Helena Glory, the daughter of the company's president, visits the factory and talks to some of the robots about how they are treated. She represents the Humanity League, which has two hundred thousand members who are outraged over the slavery of the robots. Helena cannot understand how the robots can put up with it. But they are not impressed. Liberation means nothing to them.

In spite of Helena's feelings about the misuse of the robots, she and Harry Domain fall in love and marry.

Act II takes place ten years later, and Domain’s predictions have not come true. The governments of different countries have turned the robots into soldiers and taught them to kill humans. There have been many wars and the robots have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Lately the robots have revolted and issued a manifesto: "The first international organization of Rossum's Universal Robots proclaim man as our enemy and an outlaw in the universe. Robots throughout the world, we command you to kill all mankind. Spare no men! Spare no women! Save factories, railways, machinery, mines and raw materials. Destroy the rest!"

The robots on the island attack the office and kill all the humans save one. The robots do not know how to produce more robots, and need the human to show them how. Unfortunately for them, the human they spared was an engineer, not one of the scientists who produced robots, so he's unable to help. Also, the document containing the secret of the robots' manufacture was destroyed shortly before the attack. So one year later 8 million robots have "failed" (died) and no new ones have been created.

The play ends with two of the newest Robots, Helena and Primus, discovering that they have feelings for each other. So perhaps they'll find another way to reproduce.

[from The Best Plays of 1922-23, ed. by Burns Mantle (Dodd, Mead and Co., 1923), pages 343-382.]


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All original content is © Marcia Jessen, 2007