Bush Theatre, London – until 20 May 2017
Guest reviewer: Jon Norton
The action of the play concerns 2 lowly Imperial guards at the building site of the new Taj Mahal. They get to do the dawn shift, and chatter aimlessly about their duties and the Emperor’s grand design. It happens that the great man has decreed that the 20,000 workers who created the masterpiece (including the brilliant architect Ustad Isa) must have their hands cut off, so that no work of comparable beauty can be created to rival it.
He made this decree after Isa had the impudence to request that the workers be allowed to fully inspect the fruit of their 16 years of labour. Our 2 heroes have to perform the job, as they get all the worst jobs. We don’t see it happening, just their shock as they have to clean up afterwards, which deepens as the cosmic injustice of it all weighs on their consciences.
The show held everyone’s attention, although the cross-talk of the 2 “grunts” was not especially deep or amusing. At times it seemed they were working as a standard Clever One/Stupid One double act, but this wasn’t consistent. The interludes of speculation about a future of aeroplanes and space travel were rather forced. Sound effects and lighting were used smartly, there was no attempt to project or imply the nearby presence of the Taj Mahal and it wasn’t needed.