In the early 1980s, the Vancouver Punjab community was shaken when one of its holiest Sikh temples was invaded by armed Indian government forces. The event divided the community, creating rifts that would last for decades.
Paneet Singh’s A Vancouver Guldasta focuses on a Punjabi family in Vancouver in the early eighties as they navigate through the experience of trauma brought about by the violence occurring in Punjab, and their daughter’s complicated friendship with Andy, the Vietnamese refugee who lives in their basement.
Originally staged last year as a site-specific work inside the living room of a “Vancouver Special”, this remount moves onto the stage of The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab in October, as part of the programming for Diwali in BC.
In this Q&A we find out more about from the playwright and director, Paneet Singh.
This interview has been edited.
What does Guldasta mean?
Guldasta means “bouquet” in a few languages from South Asia, including Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. The title is meant to reflect the make-up of many Vancouver neighbourhoods that many of us grew up in, where families weren’t just those who you were biologically related to, but also became those who you shared a living space with and interacted with everyday.
What will the audience experience when they attend?
The audience will be transported into the intimate space of a family’s living room. There is a lot of incorporation of technology from the 80s and archival audio and video into this show, so the audience will really feel immersed into this world. Above all else though, the audience experience is really one of being a fly-on-the-wall, while they eavesdrop on a conversation they otherwise would not have had the privilege to be a part of.
Is the show entirely in English or is there sub-titles?
The show is almost entirely in English, and when Punjabi is used, it can mostly be understood in context.
The last production sold out, is this remount a chance for to re-work the material or is it a straight remount?
It really does feel like an entirely new show, as it is in The Cultch, as opposed to site-specific inside of a Vancouver Special home.
What is your favourite part of the show?
My favourite part of the show is how its an exploration of an intimate, local story, set in front of the backdrop of a conflict that’s so critical that it’s making waves across the world. It’s a domestic drama at heart but situated in a political climate that elevates the stakes of everyday tensions.
A Vancouver Guldasta plays The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab October 2-21. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.