Karel Capek - R.U.R. [Rossum's Universal Robots]
BBC Radio 3: The Friday Play
Broadcast: Friday 3rd March 1989 @ 7:30 p.m.
In 1921, the Czech author Karel Capek (pronounced Chahpek) wrote his best known piece of work, the play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal
Robots), which featured machines created to simulate human beings.
Some references state that term "robot" was derived from the Czech word robota, meaning "work", while others propose that robota
actually means "forced workers" or "slaves." This latter view would certainly fit the point that Capek was trying to make, because his
robots eventually rebelled against their creators, ran amok, and tried to wipe out the human race.
However, as is usually the case with words, the truth of the matter is a little more convoluted. In the days when Czechoslovakia was a
feudal society, "robota" referred to the two or three days of the week that peasants were obliged to leave their own fields to work without
remuneration on the lands of noblemen. For a long time after the feudal system had passed away, robota continued to be used to
describe work that one wasn't exactly doing voluntarily or for fun, while today's younger Czechs and Slovaks tend to use robota to refer
to work that's boring or uninteresting.
Translated from the Czech by P. Selver
Adapted by Nigel Playfair
With Simon Ward [Harry Domain, General Manager for Rossum's Universal Robots], Tessa Peake-Jones [Helena Glory, Daughter of
Professor Glory, Oxbridge University], Harry Towb [Alquist, Clerk of the works of R.U.R.], Nigel Anthony [Dr. Gall, Head of the
Physiological Dept. of R.U.R.], John Rye [Jacob Berman, Managing Director of R.U.R.], Sean Barrett [Dr. Hellman, Psychologist-in-Chief],
Peter Craze [Fabry, Chief Engineer for R.U.R.], Joan Walker [Emma, Helena's maid], Ken Cumberlidge [Radius, a robot], John Bull
[Marius, a robot], Joanna Mackie [Sulla, a robot], Ian Michie [Primus, a robot], Marcia King [Helena, a robotess], and Joe Dunlop [A
The piano played by Terence Allbright.
Directed by Glyn Dearman.
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