The Moon has Fallen from the Sky | Friendship, Power and Loyalty in Guards at the Taj

The Vienna Theatre Project production explores the limits of friendship in a witty and intimate performance.

When low-rank Imperial Guard Humayun carefully but eagerly turns around at the crack of dawn to see the Taj Mahal for the the first time, he is so taken with its beauty he thinks the moon has fallen. Little does he know he will soon wish to never see it again.

Vienna Theatre Project’s newest production, Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj, intimately shows the friendship between two opposites. There’s stern and conservative Humayun, played by Diljohn Singh who subtly captures the emotional layers behind his inflexible character; and playful Babur, portrayed endearingly by John Afzal.

Engaging in fast and witty dialogue that avoids stereotypes, the relationship between the two is established in just a few minutes: as the Taj Mahal shines abstractly behind them, both men stand guard, and in one of many moments where he breaks the mandatory silence, Babur refers to Humayun as his brother. The taller guard quickly settles the matter, however: “We’re not brothers, we’re just friends.” And friendship can be broken.

The long first scene, which would have benefitted from even less movement on Singh’s part to emphasize Humayun’s professionality, slowly builds tension towards the revelation of an unthinkable truth: insulted by a request from the builders to see their work first, Shah Jahan decrees that nothing shall ever surpass the Taj Mahal’s beauty. To ensure that, Babur and Hamayun are ordered to cut off all 20,000 workers’ hands.  

Directors Joanna Godwin-Seidl and David Wurawa present the horror of the guards’ assignment gut-wrenchingly well: the monotonous sounds of cutting are nauseating. The lighting evokes both the beauty of the Taj Mahal and the horror of a room drenched in blood.

vienna theatre project guards at the taj
© viennatheatreproject

It is then that the play goes from static to expressively physical, the lighthearted tone taking on a chilling urgency given the new context. Terrified and upset, the two friends attempt to comfort one another, chattering on about seemingly impossible inventions to cope. “When I was chopping, I thought about things I could invent.” Babur imagines a flying machine to take them to the stars, far away from their horrendous deeds. But even fantasy offers no refuge: At night, Babur dreams that his flying machines turn against them and attack.

Were the two men “just doing their jobs?” Humayun cannot fathom a world without the powerful and powerless, but Babur believes obedience has its limits. As the two explore loyalty and self-preservation in the face of arbitrary power, Guards at the Taj offers no easy answers, forcing the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Through May 9, Theater Drachengasse. viennatheatreproject.com

Lisanne Brouwer
Dutch born and bred, Lisanne holds a Liberal Arts and Sciences BA, is passionate about Diversity and Cultural Studies and likes theatre, art museums, cooking, trying out new restaurants and singing in the shower. After a great few months in Vienna with METROPOLE, an MA in Arts Administration & Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths, University of London is up next.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

Hold the Line

With cases skyrocketing again in Europe, it is time to remember the advice a public health expert gave us in April: The virus is unforgiving to unwise choices.

Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | 8 Out of 9 Austrian Federal States on Ger...

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

Facing the Closed-Door Topic of Migrants and Sexual Assault

While most crime is down, alarming increases in violence against women, often by recent migrants, increases the pressure on efforts to support successful integration.

Black Voices – ‘Writing History’ in Austria

Following the popular Black Lives Matter protest in Vienna, young activists launched a Citizens’ Initiative demanding a national action plan against racism.

Vienna Election – The Greens Call for Unity as the SPÖ Weighs its Options

The mayor’s delegation will meet with all the parties before formal coalition negotiations begin on October 26.

Meet Mary Larunsi, an Austrian Fashion Model With Nigerian Roots

“What you see in the pictures is not necessarily the reality. I don’t get flown anywhere in a private jet with a glass of champagne in my hand. In the end, it’s hard work.”
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.

X
X
X