In an attempt to answer the question, ‘What is justice?’, Professor of Philosophy, John Rawls (Alexander Wickens), travels back in time to ask the great philosophers of the last two thousand years what their thoughts are on the subject. The result is a humorous and enlightening musical packed with witty legal puns (who knew it was even possible?) and a funny storyline.
John Rawls is one of our most important contemporary legal philosophers and while many a student of law and philosophy may have found his books somewhat dry, this musical certainly isn’t. From the absurd opening (‘the physicists have opened a vortex!’) in which Rawls’ muse and inspiration, Fairness (Rosalind Isaacs) is thrown back in time, the cast is able to convey even the most complicated of philosophical concepts in a fun and interesting way.
Musical highlights are many, and vary from a sassy portrayal of Socrates (Jacob Page) and Plato (Sam Ereira) in ancient Greece to an impressive sing-and-dance off between the gangs of Thomas Hobbes (Florence Brady) and John Locke (Claudia Freemantle) in the State of Nature. Special mention should also be made of Luke Rollason, and his hilarious portrayal of Rawls’ intellectual archenemy, Professor Robert Nozick. Together with his mistress, the selfish and fierce Ayn Rand (Clare Joyce), the two of them make up the bad guys of the show, who are constantly trying to prevent Rawls achieving his life’s goal: to write a Theory of Justice and to gain the respect of the woman he loves. Throw in a fairy godmother with a German accent in a drag costume and you’ve got yourself a show.
The attempt to make two thousand years of legal and political theory interesting and understandable for the ordinary viewer is not only ambitious and brave, but also extremely demanding. Although this production is probably most enjoyable for those with some background knowledge of the philosophers and ideas in question, the cast and crew of A Theory of Justice: The Musical! have managed to leave the audience not only entertained but also with a deeper understanding of the ideas and thoughts that have helped shape the society in which we all live.