Guards at The Taj is based on a violent Indian myth around the Taj Mahal. It revolves around two guards that are ordered not to look at the monument before the first light, as this honour is only reserved for the emperor Shah Jahan. The premise is simple enough but the journey is certainly not.
Directed by Jo Kukathas, seen recently as Caesar in Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park 2018, she has brought to Guards at The Taj, the same, if not more of the intensity, blood and betrayal of her previous role.
Babur (Jay Saighal) and Humayun (Ghafir Akbar) put out an absolutely stunning performance. Viewers were fully immersed into their performance and were shock to hear that they had only a little less than a month for rehearsals. The performers were able to deliver jaw-dropping intensity and electrifying chemistry for their roles despite the little time they had to work with one another for rehearsals.
There is a lot to unpack thematically with this play so let me break it down:
The Taj Mahal is an architectural masterpiece that is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. Through the perspective of two ordinary guards, this monument is the most beautiful work of human craftsmanship they have seen, and will ever see.
This brings about the philosophical questioning that Babur struggles with, and it happens two folds: if ordinary people have made such a marvel, then would it inspire others to do the same and will they be able to achieve it and if the workers that made it are ordered never to make such a monument again, would that mean that beauty itself will cease to exist?
Due to the sheer magnitude of the Taj Mahal, both guards appear small and insignificant. This is also brought up by Babur who laments about how from above, everything big will appear small which shows that despite man’s greatest feats, it will hold no significance in the universe, this train of thought is linked to the philosophical theory of cosmic insignificance.
Their characters couldn’t be anymore different, Babur is full of curiosity and uncontainable imagination. He is chatty and full of child-like ideas and inventions that could take him away from his current reality. On the other hand, Humayun is more down to earth and law-abiding. He rather live by status quo and stick to the mould that his father has created for him.
Humayan is intrigued and drawn by Babur’s beautiful mind, while Babur views Humayan as his support pillar. They have many quick and witty conversations that reflect just how much they respect, love and adore one another.
Duty > Love
As a sub-theme to friendship, Babur embodies empathy, love and imagination, while Humayan embodies duty, honour and customs. This means that their motivations are underpinned by these fundamental characteristics and their limits are pushed to the breaking point because of their differing fundamental beliefs. Humayan is rational and realistic, almost to a fault, while Babur feels for everything and everyone, unable to contain his emotions and “weakness”. This fight between duty and love reveals how having anything in excess can have detrimental effects.
Perhaps the most important of all themes in this play is: Imagination. Imagination takes on many hats, from philosophical debates to dreams of a different world with different rules.
They help to create the visual stimulus to bring the viewer and characters out of their current reality into a better time, circumstance and environment. It is a respite from the darker and deeper themes of the play and is also the stimulus for much of the comedy of the play.
I would definitely recommend catching this play in the theatre. This play will leave you shaken to the core and in deep thought about the seamlessly integrated themes. It will leave you: 25% horrified, 25% sad, 25% amused, 25% sentimental, and 100% entertained.
Venue: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT
Show dates: 14th Nov – 1st Dec 2018
Timing: 8pm (weekday), 3pm & 8pm (weekend)
Duration: 1h 30mins (no interval)
Prices: $35-$60 (exclude booking fee)
Tickets are selling out so get it while it lasts!