Fully Sikh review: a celebration of family and Sikh culture

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari in Fully Sikh.
Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari in Fully Sikh.

FULLY Sikh is an immersive theatre experience that will stay in my heart for a long time.

And it is difficult to think of a better way to mark this first collaboration between Barking Gecko Theatre and Black Swan State Theatre Company than with the theatre debut of Perth spoken word artist Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa.

The 25-year-old, who found national attention in 2016 on Australia’s Got Talent with her poem about racism in Australia, is sharing her story about growing up Sikh (the world’s fifth largest religion) in Leeming.

It is certainly a story worth hearing.

Ritual is a big part of this production even before entering the auditorium, where in the foyer audience members are invited to play the Indian game Carrom and be crowned layer by layer with a Dastaar (turban) by Khalsa’s brother.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in Fully Sikh.

Audiences are then asked to remove their shoes before entering the theatre as a sign of respect, finding Khalsa on stage in her childhood kitchen.

She is surrounded by the ingredients that made her who she is today, cooking Punjabi dishes of Missi Roti and Daal with the help of a few members of the crowd.

Director Matt Edgerton (Barking Gecko) and dramaturg Clare Watson (BSSTC) have guided Khalsa through her first professional production, where her nerves on Saturday’s opening night were understandably visible at moments but will surely wash away as the season continues.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari in Fully Sikh.

The captivating performance is a combination of spoken word poetry and snapshots that defined her childhood and adolescence, mixing humour and pop culture with the hurt, embarrassment and anger she felt at the time.

The show is a two-hander, with musician Pavan Kumar Hari on stage bringing the sounds of Khalsa’s story to life through an array of traditional instruments, ranging from a harmonium and tabla to contemporary additions, including a ROLI seaboard and various kitchen implements.

Designer Isla Shaw has created a transformative set design full of colour and surprising additions that seamlessly set the scene during this vulnerable storytelling.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa and Pavan Kumar Hari in Fully Sikh.

Fully Sikh is a celebration of family and Sikh culture where Khalsa speaks the truth with no inhibition.

She finishes the 75-minute production with a sacred Shabad instead of a traditional curtain call, which remains long after being reunited with your shoes and leaving the theatre.

Fully Sikh is at Studio Underground until November 3.

Four stars