With the premiere of the latest season of the cult sci-fi TV show Doctor Who just four days away, there’s little else nerds (like myself) can think about. Which of course begs the question: how do I combine my love of science fiction with my love of theatre? How exactly do the quirks of science fiction translate on stage?
Those quirks translate quite well, actually. Several science fiction plays have been written over the years that have delighted audiences and challenged them to consider how technology may change our society in the future.
One play that has had a huge impact not just on theatre but also on language itself is Karel Capek’s R.U.R. The title stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots, a company that mass-produces robots to speed up productivity in an industrial age. Eventually, the robots start to out-number humans, and earth’s population dwindles. Written in 1920, the play has been highly influential to the science fiction genre, and introduced the word “robot” - which stems from the Czech word robota, meaning forced labor - to the world at large. Many science fiction TV shows such as Dollhouse, Star Trek, and Futurama have made reference to the play over the years. Though the play is not often produced today, the text is available on Amazon.
Other science fiction plays take their cues from successful science fiction novels. Last year at the National Theatre in London, Director Danny Boyle staged Nick Dear’s haunting adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein. This highly theatrical production features Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame and Johnny Lee Miller in alternating roles as Frankenstein and the Monster, and examines what it means to be human and the ethical qualms that come with the power to create. Sadly, the West End production has closed, but it is still being screened in movie theatres around the world through National Theatre Live.
Have you seen any science fiction plays recently? Leave your favorites in the comments!