Guards at the Taj: A Review

Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner. (1)

Credit: Marc Brenner

As a London-based blogger and someone who works and lives in London, I think it’s so important to unwind after work and immerse yourself in the many cultural activities that London has to offer.

So I was very excited to be invited to the Bush Theatre for their production of Guards at the Taj by Rajiv Joseph.

Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner. (2)

Credit: Marc Brenner

Walking into the Bush Theatre, you can definitely tell it has had a makeover. The building itself is very accessible and it now has an outdoor terrace decorated with flowers, definitely one of my favourite parts of the refurb. You can imagine yourself discussing thoughts on the play you’ve just watched, glass of wine in hand, soaking in those last few minutes of the evening summer sunshine.

Anyways, back to the play.

Guards at the Taj starts off quite slowly; for some, this may be dullingly slow, but for me it was needed as a way for the main characters to involve the audience into the background of the story. The two main characters Babur (played by Darren Kuppan) and Humayan (played by Danny Ashok) are guarding the beautiful and world-famous Taj Mahal. They speak about many things (despite the fact that they are supposed to be silent), and this is where we get to see the difference of the two characters. Babur is a fun-loving, perhaps simple-minded sweet-natured person, whereas Humayan is a more serious, strong and silent character.

The story gets more serious here, when the myth of Shah Jahan cutting off the hands of 20,000 workers so that they could never recreate such beauty again, comes into the story. The two characters are employed to carry out the unthinkable actions, and the effects that it has on Darren is heartbreaking.

Danny Ashok and Darren Kuppon in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner.

Credit: Marc Brenner

The friendship between Darren and Danny is truly beautiful to watch and they convincingly bounce off each other. The set was astonishingly simple and it worked so well because you focus on the character and the story, which is where the true beauty lies.

Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner.

Credit: Marc Brenner

The lighting is also something I noticed a lot, especially in the final heart wrenching scene, perhaps it was because the set was so simple, but the orange hues of dreams contrasted with the bright lights of reality were really effective. Bright lights were also used to signify the beauty of the Taj Mahal, which I thought was used really well.

This was also the first play that I’d seen directed by Jamie Lloyd, and I was thoroughly impressed. The play itself is darker than I thought and honestly, 80 minutes wasn’t enough – I really thought I’d struggle with not going to the bathroom / checking my phone / getting hungry / getting thirsty (yes I am clearly a 5 year old), but the play completely had my attention. Big sign that I was engrossed.

Danny Ashok and Darren Kuppan in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner.

Credit: Marc Brenner

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the play and I didn’t read any reviews beforehand as I wanted to form my own opinions, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what I watched.

I would highly recommend going to see Guards at the Taj, it is really thought-provoking and heartwarming, with dark themes conflicted with occasional streams of lightheartedness.

Have you seen any good plays recently? I’d love some recommendations!

Guards at the Taj, at the Bush Theatre, until 20th May

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