If confirmation of the sheer geekiness of Oxford students was ever needed then A Theory of Justice has provided it. A Theory of Justice is spectacularly, delightfully nerdy. The musical explores 2,500 years of philosophical thought through catchy songs and hilarious jokes. Surprisingly, for a play based on an academic text, there is not a dull moment.
Ollie Nicholls is wonderful as John Rawls, his enthusiasm and likeability enables the audience to connect with an atypically intellectual protagonist. It is not often that an audience feels deep compassion for a man desperately pursuing for a concept. Rawls search for Fairness is the backbone of the play and is successful both as a love story and in its ability to explain Rawls theory.
Indeed, the entire cast are convincing as the greatest philosophers in history. David Wigley is particularly comical as Immanuel Kant transformed into Rawls’ fairy godmother. Wigley provides one of many moments of pure silliness that make the play enjoyable for those, like me, who are not well acquainted with the main movements in philosophy. Although there are many jokes that may require a basic knowledge of political philosophy, there are also many that are amusing to those who are still ignorant of the theories of Nozick, Locke or Plato.
The major triumph of the play is that it is accessible to all audience members. The great conceptual breakthroughs of philosophy are not dumbed down for the general public, nor are they discussed in great detail for the enjoyment of those with a better understanding of political philosophy. The musical does not include all major philosophers of the past 2,500 years, but it would be inadvisable to attempt to include all philosophical thinkers in one two hour show.
A Theory of Justice left me wishing that there were musicals based on the history of every academic discipline and that there would be another philosophical breakthrough for Aslan-Levy, Sabi and Peto to transform for the theatre. Perhaps the most striking feature of the musical is that it inspires philosophical conversation between students on a cold and windy January night. All the way back from the Keble O’Reilly It was possible to hear people discussing their opinions on the different theories portrayed in the show.
A Theory of Justice is both entertaining and educational, a truly remarkable musical. You would be a fool to miss it.