Broadway Baby

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Only a few weeks ago, the Bush Theatre emerged from its year-long renovation, boasting a revamped auditorium and studio space, alongside open-air decking for those all-important post-show drinks. Given the space's lavish overhaul, what's perhaps most remarkable about Guards at the Taj is the restraint it shows in telling you its gripping story, of two soldiers guarding the south side of a nearly-completed Taj Mahal, themselves restrained by royal order not to turn and look at the most beautiful building in the world.

As full of heart as it is needless cruelty, the Bush has produced a piece of vital, vital theatre.

As you'd expect in a play about two men standing guard until dawn, the staging and movement is minimal – but used to great effect when the time calls for it. Sound design is equally sparing, preferring to let silence do its work, using only the briefest glimpses of birdsong or airplane engines (yes, you read that right) to startle you to attention.

There are jokes a-plenty, aptly handled by Four Lions actor Danny Ashok as endearing jobsworth Humayun – who lists the rules and restrictions on his life the way teens list their favourite songs – and Darren Kuppan as his close friend and free-thinker Babur, full of predictions and hopes for the future. The actors are a delight to watch and share an envious rapport, conveying years of affection and frustration at each other with little more than a shrug or a tilt of the head. But the play is shockingly dark – all the more disturbing for the ring of truth surrounding the consequences of the then-Emperor's strict royal decrees. This is a detailed picture of 1648 Agra, India, and Joseph deserves high praise for ensuring the setting is far more than mere historical dressing.

Even the most frivolous lines carry a serious weight, and what might have become aimless quipping in lesser hands is here a tense battle for expression, laughter, and morals in a system that won't grant them to you. Yet with the easy way the cast shrug off changes in scene or tone, even difficult-to-watch sections are always profoundly watchable.

Two low-ranking characters trading witticisms and philosophies are hardly a new sight for the stage; but while Humayun and Babur question the nature of aesthetics, coated in the blood of their colleagues and showing that the grand questions in life can't be divorced from its harsh reality, there's no question that Guards at the Taj carries it off with aplomb. As full of heart as it is needless cruelty, the Bush has produced a piece of vital, vital theatre.


7th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
8th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
8th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
9th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
11th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
12th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
12th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
15th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
15th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
16th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
18th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
19th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
19th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
21st Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
22nd Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
22nd Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
23rd Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
25th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
26th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
26th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
27th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
28th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
29th Apr 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
29th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
30th Apr 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
1st May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
2nd May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
4th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
5th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
6th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
6th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
8th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
9th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
11th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
12th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
15th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
16th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
18th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
19th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th May 20177:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
27th May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
31st May 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
21st Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
28th Jun 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
1st Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
5th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
8th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
12th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
15th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
19th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
22nd Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
26th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
29th Jul 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
2nd Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
5th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
9th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
12th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
16th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
19th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
23rd Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
26th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
30th Aug 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
2nd Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
6th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
9th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
16th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
23rd Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
27th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
30th Sep 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
4th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
11th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
18th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
21st Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
25th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
28th Oct 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
1st Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
4th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
8th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
11th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
15th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
18th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
22nd Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
25th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
29th Nov 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
2nd Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
6th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
9th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
16th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
23rd Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
27th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
30th Dec 20172:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
6th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
13th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
20th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
27th Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
31st Jan 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
21st Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
28th Feb 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
3rd Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
10th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
17th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
21st Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
24th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
28th Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
31st Mar 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
4th Apr 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
7th Apr 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
11th Apr 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
14th Apr 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London
18th Apr 20182:30pmBush Theatre
Shepherds Bush Green, London

The Blurb

“If we hadn’t done our jobs tonight, we’d be hanging by our necks in the royal courtyard getting our eyes pecked out by the royal crows. So excuse me if I don’t wallow in some misbegotten guilt all night. Was it fucked up? Yes, it was. But I don’t have to feel terrible about it.”

Jamie Lloyd directs the European premiere of this wickedly funny award-winning play from Pulitzer Prize nominee Rajiv Joseph.

It’s 1648. Agra, India. Imperial guards and best mates Humayun and Babur keep watch as the final touches are put to the mighty Taj Mahal behind them. The emperor has decreed that no one, except the masons, labourers and slaves who exist within those walls, shall turn to look at the building until it is complete.

Now, as the building nears completion and the first light catches on the pure white domes behind them, the temptation to steal a glance at the most beautiful monument the world has ever seen grows stronger. But beauty has a price and Humayun and Babur are about to learn its true cost.

Guards at the Taj takes as its starting point an enduring legend and prompts contemporary audiences to revisit questions about art and privilege. The play premiered at the Atlantic Theatre in New York to great acclaim in 2015 and is the recipient of both the Obie Award for Best New American Play and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play (2016).

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