By Tatum Stafford
As the opening night audience of ‘Fully Sikh’ poured into the black-box style Studio Underground space, it was immediately guaranteed to be a very unique theatrical experience. Guided to an area where we were to remove our shoes, and seated with a traditional headscarf on our seat backs, the smell of aromatic curry and steamed rice filled the room to our delight.
A co-production with the formidable Barking Gecko Theatre Company, this show starts with a bang as its narrator and lead performer, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa informs us that the show will trace her journey, from the youngest “Jit” in the Khalsa’s suburban Leeming home, to her current lifestyle as a spoken word performer. We are encouraged to ‘click’ whenever a part of her story resonates particularly with us – and in these terms, the opening night audience were warm, receptive and empathetic to many moments in her life.
Sukhjit is a fantastic performer, waltzing through segments of her childhood, teenage-dom and early adulthood with a familiar ease – wherein even the most contrasting audience members can find a sense of comfort in her words. She is memorably accompanied with a variety of instruments and household utensils by the show’s composer and sole musician, Pavan Kumar Hari. A previous Percussion student from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Pavan’s atmospheric accompaniment is a true highlight of the show – not to mention his comedic portrayals of a few choice characters, including Sukhjit’s teenage crush Tommy Hicks and her primary school’s queen bee Tara (with headband and eye-roll in tow).
One of the show’s most impactful characters, in a sense, is its inventive set. Designed by the award-winning Isla Shaw, the two-island, one cupboard performance space is packed with a variety of intricacies – for example, flags and bikinis at the local swimming pool, nostalgic ‘Woolworths’ and ‘Hoyts’ signage, a teenage bedroom complete with Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys paraphernalia and a plethora of spices that adorn the dishes served up to a few lucky audience members in the play’s final scene.
The entire team behind this production should be commended for its incredible intimacy, emotion, and heart. Matt Edgerton’s direction provides engaging action and movements from Sukhjit, and makes extremely effective use of what is often a tough space to fill (especially by two people).
All in all, this is Sukhjit’s story – and she tells it with vigour, humour and an earnest honesty. She is incredibly captivating, and holds the audience with each anecdote and touching familial memory. As she and Pavan led the audience into a final Shabad prayer at the show’s conclusion, it dawned on us all what a special and memorable night at the theatre this was. For those considering buying a ticket, I can assure that it will be a performance that will sit with you, and makes for a brilliant finale for what has been a stellar season at Black Swan State Theatre Company. Bring on 2020!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.