When idealistic young Helena Glory arrives at the island headquarters of Rossum’s Universal Robots, with vague ideas about liberating the robots the company manufactures from their lives of enforced servitude, she is unprepared for what she finds. Overwhelmed by the almost evangelistic Harry Domain, she remains on the island, and inadvertently sews the seeds of her and mankind’s destruction…
Reviewed by Donald Madgwick for The Croydon Advertiser
It is not quite a classic of the theatre but Karel Capek’s “Rossum’s Universal Robots” better known as “R.U.R”, remains much more than an historical curio.
Dating as far back as 1921, it seems to offer a remarkably prophetic vision of the Nazi movement and the holocaust.
Mass-produced robots, made under a new life-imitating formula, arise to destroy their creators and establish a global tyranny. What was planned as a new utopia of cheap and abundant goods ends as a nightmare with the extinction of Adam’s race.
Theatre Workshop Coulsdon are presenting the play (further performances tonight and tomorrow) under the direction of Paul M. Ford, whose first production this is.
It is an interesting and worthwhile venture, but one does feel his lack of directorial experience, particularly in the lack of tension at critical moments.
The acting is generally competent, but suffers from slackness under pressure. When the news is announced that the robots have taken over the rescue ship and cut off out intrepid band’s last line of escape, someone says “That’s an ugly development,” as if England had just lost a wicket in the Test Match.
The performance I attended contained one of the longest and most agonising “dries” in my experience, ended by the arrival of a character with the deathless remark “How can you stand there and say such a thing?”
Sitting here, I am glad to say such a thing as that I am both pleased and grateful to have seen the production. For all my reservations, not the least of which is that I felt the old text badly needed pruning, it gave me more pleasure than many a slick production of a formula comedy.
Richard Lloyd brought a robust quality to the role of Harry Domain, the General Manager, and there was an interestingly expressionistic style in the collective playing of his quintet of co-workers.
In particular, Mark Outhwaite had the strength of desperation as Alquist, whose bleak message brings the play to its close.
Christine Blake was rather limited in her range of reactions as Helena, whose humanitarian instincts prove so ineffectual, though I found her a most sympathetic character.
Best of the robots was Lee Wilkinson, while Simeon Dawes and Penny Simeone made a strong impression in the final act.
Paul M Ford
Technical Crew Details:
Paul M Ford
Paul M Ford