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Review: R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)

January 2, 2011

R.U.R. by Karel Capek is a play that doesn’t amount to anything other than a sort-of interesting historical artifact. Capek’s brother Josef invented the word “robot” which is cool and all, although the robots in the play are androids or Nexus 6 models without the interesting subtext and memorable monologues. Supposedly (according to wikipedia so take with a pinch of salt) that robota is Czech for forced labour and I suppose there is a quasi-analogical subtext about the snobby rich guys and workers who are practically slaves doing labour…but it’s just so boring.

You can also see Capek’s limitations as a writer of dialogue (something that is important in a play, y’know) when everyone sounds the same, and everyone’s dialogue can be interchangeable. It also has a female character (Helena) so badly written it’s staggering. I suppose from a more liberated, 21st century perspective things like when she renounces her entire ideological convictions (she begins the play wanted equal rights for robots) when the men tell her this is silly, aw ickle lady stop worrying about important matters like this and get back to cooking and knitting and childbirth.

The end of the first act has a mind-boggling ending where the head of the Robot company (Domin) asks Helena to marry him, which she obviously rejects.

Helena: No, no! Please let go of me! You’re crushing me!

Domin: Your final word, Helena.

Helena: (defending herself) Not for anything in the world….but Harry!

(Knock at the door. Enter Busman)….other characters enter but whatever

Domin: Everything finished in the kitchen?

Busman: (triumphant) Yes.

Domin: Here too.


Now, if you were thinking that Domin had crushed Helena to death in a weird sadomasochistic foreplay act that went terribly wrong and she didn’t know the safeword…well you’ll be wrong, because the next act it is ten years later and they’re married.


So, yeah, don’t bother reading.

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