**** 4 stars

Black Swan State Theatre Company and Barking Gecko Theatre Company have come together to collaborate on this very important story about belonging and acceptance when growing up as a brown, and hairy, Sikh girl in suburban Perth. Applying spoken word poetry to a theatre forum, writer and spoken word artist Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa has worked with director Matt Edgerton, dramaturg Clare Watson, designer Isla Shaw, and musician Pavan Kumar Hari to put her childhood on stage. “Fully Sikh” is more than a coming-of-age tale as it highlights the differences of belonging to the Sikh community, and the challenges that Khalsa faced growing up in an evolving multi-cultural Perth.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa is a fantastic writer, blending humour with pathos within her poetry, and her presence as a performer is strong and welcoming. The whole show is a kind of ritual of communion whereby the audience are invited to experience some aspects of the Sikh and Punjabi culture in this immersive theatre piece. The unobtrusive guidance of director Matt Edgerton allows this story to emerge in a refreshingly organic way.

Pavan Kumar Hari is an excellent musician and composer and has the opportunity during scene transitions and during the action to add to the authenticity of this production, even becoming a couple of characters.

The set design by Isla Shaw evokes Khalsa’s Indian heritage with washing lines full of colourful fabric, and foregrounds the intimate setting of Khalsa’s family home to allow the story to unfold. Sometimes her memories are of Sikh customs, or cooking with her mother, with the gradual, and inevitable, anxieties sparked by racist taunts and Khalsa’s growing need to belong and fit in to ‘Anglo-Australian’ society.

The story of the shapeshifting teenager is not new, however, Khalsa’s experiences of bullying due to racism lift this story to a different level as she begins to question and deny her heritage, culture and those who have always accepted her, such as her school friend. The story begins to level out as Khalsa realises the futility of continuing down the ‘rabbit hole’ of seeking belonging and acceptance from others. “Fully Sikh” is a joyful coming-of-age story that provides a unique insight into growing up in multi-cultural Australia.

The popularity of this world premiere has meant that “Fully Sikh” has been extended until 3 November 2019, and is showing in the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, Perth.

Duration: 75 minutes (no interval)

Suitability: Recommended 10+

Tickets at https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/fully-sikh

Images: Daniel J Grant

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