Can we talk about 1984?

The audience response has been positive....

Conversations around the 1984 attack and occupation of the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, the November pogroms in Delhi, Bhindrawale, Indira Gandhi, Khalistanis, and the human rights violations throughout Punjab are divisive, conflict-ridden and sometimes scary. So much so that many don’t talk about the traumas of the past thirty years in public because it’s too painful and we’re often expected to take a side: Khalistan or pro-Indian government. But like any movement, there is so much more nuance to the discussion – something captured with deep empathy and sensitivity in A Vancouver Guldasta.
The new play from Paneet Singh invites the audience to witness a family living in Vancouver as they process the immediate traumas of June 1984, and learn to live with the uncertain choices they each make.

It’s the first week of June 1984, and we meet the Dhaliwal family in their living room, joking and playing, and generally a well knit group. The Dhaliwals live in a quintessential Vancouver Special house in East Van, home to so many generations of immigrants throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Very quickly, we experience a family divided and united over how to process and respond to the Indian government’s attack on the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) and Amritsar. We also meet Andy, the Dhaliwal’s basement tenant, who escaped from his own violent traumas in Vietnam.

Playwright and director Paneet Singh shares his insights about the inspirations central to A Vancouver Guldasta, the importance of having the play physically located in a house, and the importance of conversation in unpacking Diasporic trauma.

Why does the play take place in a Vancouver Special house instead of in a theatre?

The house itself is a character in the play. Because of their size and affordability, migrant and working class families took to Vancouver Specials, and these houses became building blocks of neighbourhoods like Punjabi Market in South Vancouver. They were the space in which so many intercultural friendships developed, like the one we see between the two teenage characters in the script. So many experiences were shared across communities in these homes, and the walls sing those stories. The play is not just the experience of the script, but also the experience of an authentic Punjabi home in the 1980s. It’s an opportunity for the audience to be in a space and hear a conversation they otherwise would not have been privy to.


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