You're joking, right, you haven't really made a musical based on John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, have you?
You’re not the first person to think we’re joking! The whole project did in fact start out as a joke, but then it snowballed into a full-scale production.
It’s a musical based on John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Or rather – it’s a musical in which John Rawls travels through time to meet with a colourful cast of singing-and-dancing philosophers, in order to come up with his Theory by the end. The original 1971 book didn’t feature a tango between Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand or a barbershop quartet of Utilitarians – so we’ve jazzed it up a fair bit!
Why did you do this?
Because it sounded like too funny a concept to pass up on! We started playing around with some tunes on the piano and brainstorming jokes, and we realised that this had the potential to be an exciting, bold and really funny new musical. Also, so many people who heard about it instantly urged us to do it. Perhaps they were joking, but we listened anyway.
Is there a serious point here, or is this just a pretext for some incongruous fun?
It certainly made revising for Finals a lot more enjoyable, when we could do it in song! We didn’t intend there to be a serious point, but if people come away from it thinking about philosophy, we’d be pretty happy.
The musical is first and foremost a fun and entertaining piece of theatre – it’s not a rhyming philosophy lecture, but a good old-fashioned Broadway-style show with an utterly unconventional subject matter. You don’t need to get the philosophy to enjoy what is at heart a musical about a man on a mission to find the girl of his dreams (and inspiration for a big new idea) as his journey is frustrated by a duo of dastardly villains. In any case, if you don’t know anything about philosophy when you come to watch it, you will by the end!
How has your musical been received?
It was a surprise smash, and the Oxford production sold out over a week in advance! We were holding our breaths on opening night because we had no idea how the audience would react; but then people started laughing, and they didn’t stop until the curtains went down. Several reviewers wrote that they were in tears of laughter. We were delighted by how many people who knew nothing about philosophy enjoyed the musical and left at the end humming the songs!
You're travelling to Edinburgh with the show, do you have plans beyond that?
Yes – we’re taking the show on the road to London in early September for a very limited run, to give school students a chance to catch it. After that, we’re making the licence available for amateur productions from 1st October – and if some big Hollywood producer thinks it’s blockbuster material… well, they know where to find us!
[These answers were given by the three writers Eylon Aslan-Levy, Ramin Sabi and Tommy Peto]
Immanuel Kant inspires John Rawls
Photos copyright Giacomo Sain