Guards At The Taj

Rajiv Joseph
Theatre By The Lake, Keswick
to

Two soldiers stand on sentry duty outside the building site for the Taj Mahal...

From such flimsy beginnings flows a seductive fable about duty, power and cruelty in American playwright Rajiv Joseph’s compact, 90-minute drama.

Humayun and Babur are forbidden from looking at the most beautiful monument to love that mankind has ever created, but they cannot turn their backs on their own imagination. In particular, the Sultan cannot prevent them from daydreaming about how much better life might be if they were ever promoted to guarding his harem!

Babur (Luke Murphy) is particularly garrulous. His flights of fancy extend to imagining that one day, man might even be able to fly up towards the heavens. Humayun (Devesh Kishore) is much more grounded, with a stronger sense of his responsibility back down on Earth.

Their whimsical conversations may hover between myth and reality, faith in a god or loyalty to a monarch, but their duties take a decidedly dark and bloody turn towards the horrific. It’s at this midpoint of the play, with a Tarantino-esque reveal beneath designer Elizabeth Wright’s set design, that haemophobics are advised to steer well clear, especially from the front row seats.

Guards at the Taj is a grown-up dissection of man’s ability to create beauty or invoke horror. Rajiv Joseph’s narrative can be subtle and intangible, or strident and evocative, much like Mark Melville’s clever and haunting sound design.

Murphy and Kishore provide a pair of equally contrasting characters in another of those midget gems that this venue’s Studio space always manages to bring to the Lakeland theatre’s six-month-long summer season.

Reviewer: David Upton