[Review] Guards at the Taj! – a play by SRT

What an amazing debut! Guards at the Taj, written by an award-winning playwright Rajiv Joseph, made its way to KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT for the first time in Singapore, directed by Jo Kukathas.

Many are no stranger to the infamous Taj Mahal tale that happened centuries ago in the mid 1600s. It’s a thrilling exploration and dark comedy of power, friendship and beauty as the story revolves around two ordinary men, Humayan (Ghafir Akbar) and Babur (Jay Saighal) who guard the majestic monument.

Humayan had just heard from his sources that Shah Jahan, who built the Taj, decree that upon completion of the magnificent mausoleum, nothing as beautiful would ever be built again. To ensure that the statement was upheld, he ordered the hands of all 20,000 slaves and workers to be amputated. One can only imagine the carnage that would cause if it were to happen in this day and age.

As the play transitioned into the next scene, the entire theatre was caught completely off guard as the lights beamed down onto the stage, revealing the set that has been transformed into an abattoir with blood all over. The setting might be gory to some, as chopped hands were collated and both cast members were covered with blood. I was really impressed with the set design – it really felt like we were in a slaughterhouse.

After the vicious slaughtering, Humayan and Babur reflect on the destructive chaos they had committed. Jay Saighal as Babur delivered an astounding performance. Based on his facial expression, I was really convinced by his sense of remorse towards his actions, while Humayan, played by Ghafir Akbar, consoled Babur and kept assuring him that he did not commit a gruesome act but instead, was just following orders.

Despite the tragedy, we were filled with laughter as they incorporated comedy into the play with Humayan’s little invention called the ‘transporting hole’. In case you are wondering, you have to be there to witness the humor unfold.

For me, theatre has the power to manipulate audience emotions unlike a cinema. The stage becomes a metaphor that depicts the real world whereas a screen has its limits and it distances us from the words and actions of the actors. During the course of the play, I felt that I was part of the entire experience as it took us on this marvelous journey back in time. That’s how brilliant the atmosphere was in the theatre that night.

You wouldn’t want to miss this once in a lifetime historical play – there’s still opportunity for you to catch it as it will be performed at KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT until December 1st 2018 at 8pm. Tickets are available from $45 to $60.

Reviewed by Fazli Rahmat