Rossum's Universal Robots

Photography by Emma Gibbons

Photography by Emma Gibbons

Something in the robots seems... different. 

What Fresh Hell proudly presents a re-imagined adaptation of the 1920's sci-fi classic Rossum’s Universal Robots, this classic piece, which holds the honour of being the first usage of the word robot, still holds a parallel relevance in today's society, despite being a century old - a show that still continues to provoke a comparatively tech-savvy contemporary audience. This production of Rossum’s explores the dehumanisation of corporate culture, the impact of mass-production, a question mark for the future of regulation of military and AI technologies and a case-study of structural sexism. 

Rossum’s Universal Robots turns out millions of manufactured workers; every household needs a robot, so demand has never been higher. Helena Glory, horrified by the Robot's enslavement, comes to ascertain what can be done to improve their situation. She is assured the robots are no different to appliances; why try and make a toaster happy? Five years later Helena is still at the factory; married to Rossum's CEO. Meanwhile, babies have stopped being born; word from the outside world has ceased; wars have been fought and lost with robot soldiers and on top of all that: something in the robots seems... different. 

“This modernised production explores humanity's compulsive need to replicate itself, the ideologies that drive mass-production and a dream of a life "improved" by technology.” describes director Ariella Stoian when asked to explain What Fresh Hell’s adaption  “The soul versus the artificial intelligence and consciousness - the same questions of what makes up humanity and what is projection versus what we understand of other people, the empathy of it all. We see that with Helena’s journey, through her eyes we witness a new world, scarily similar to our own”

“We have this double standard, this disconnect. We need our technology to be inhuman, that way we don’t have to trust it- we don’t even have to think about it. They’re just sticks and stones;” Stoian added when asked what appealed to her about presenting sci-fi on stage, “and yet: we keep making machines more and more human- we make them smarter, we give them faces and voices, we teach Siri how to tell jokes. Maybe we can’t help projecting ourselves, our humanity, onto them?”

What Fresh Hell’s Rossum’s Universal Robots will be performed at the PACT Centre for Emerging Artist. The show will run from Wednesday the 30th of August through to Saturday 2nd of September with curtains up at 7:30pm.


Abigail Honey as Helena Glory

Francisco Lopez as Harry Domin

Peter David Allison as Dr Gall

Michael Mulvenna as Berman

Emily Trueman as Fabry

Ciaran O’Riordan as Helman

Blake O’Brien as Alquist

Meg Shooter as Emma/Sulla

Alex Radovan as Marius

Misha Mehigan as Radius

Key Creatives:

Director: Ariella Stoian

Assistant Director: Chris Mckay

Dramaturg: Tess Barber

Production Manager: Emma Gibbons

Set Designer: Phil Rowe

Lighting Designer: Jack Goggin

PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Erskineville

Show dates Wednesday 30,  Thursday 31 August & Friday 1, Saturday 2 September, 2017.