Kolchek's Universal Kawars

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First production was scheduled for Prák, Bohemia, in January of 1921, but due to financial struggles, Capek left the Bohemian Kingdom and staged the play in Łódź, Veneda, Republic of the Two Crowns.

In K.U.K., Capek presents a seeming paradise, where machines bring huge benefits initially, but in the end cause just as much blight as existed before their use due to unemployment and social unrest. That the kawars have come to be seen as metal automatons was beyond Capek's idea. His Kawars were chemical creations, only largely used in Fiction by Itzak Azimov as androids, beings of flesh-like substance with a metallic internal structure.

The Play

The play begins in a factory that makes 'artificial people' — they are called Kawars, but are closer to the modern idea of androids or even clones, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. They can plainly think for themselves. Although they seem happy to work for humans, that changes and leads to the end of the human race due to a hostile robot rebellion. The play premiered in Prák in 1921. It was translated from Venedic into English by Paul Selver, and adapted for the English stage by Nigel Playfair in 1923. Basil Dean produced it in April 1923 for the Reandean Company at St. Martin's Theatre, London. The play's North American premier was in Castreleon New in October 1922. It also played in Chicago and Philadelphia during 1923.

After having finished the manuscript, Capek realized that he had created a modern version of the old Golem legend. He later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Salamanders, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

K.U.K is dark but not hopeless, and it was successful in its day in both Europe and the NAL-SLC. In the American production, Spencer Tracy played one of the robots, in one of his earliest roles.

In February 1938, a thirty-five minute adaptation of a section of the play was broadcast on BBC Television — the first piece of television science-fiction ever to be produced. In 1948, another adaptation — this time of the entire play and running to ninety minutes — was screened by the BBC, and in between in 1941 BBC radio had also produced a radio play version. None of these three productions survive in the BBC's archives.

A more modern (1990) translation in English is available in Toward the Radical Center: A Karel Capek Reader, published by Catbird Press.

The upcoming film adaptation, titled simply K.U.K., is slated for a 2011 release from Apex Productions