COUNTING AND CRACKING
On the banks of the Georges River, Radha and her son Siddhartha release the ashes of Radha’s mother – their final connection to the past, to Sri Lanka and its struggles. Now they are free to embrace their lives in Australia. Then a phone call from Colombo brings the past spinning back to life, and we are plunged into an epic story of love and political strife, of home and exile, of parents and children.
Written by S. Shakthidharan
Director Eamon Flack
Counting and Cracking toured to Edinburgh Festival and Birmingham Repertory in 2022
Produced by Belvoir
It premiered at Sydney and Adelaide Festivals in early 2019
Originally produced by Belvoir and Co-Curious
Development with the support of CuriousWorks
AWARDS & REVIEWS
Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literature Prize and the NSW Premier’s Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting, 7 Helpmann Awards and 3 Sydney Theatre Awards.
The Times UK: “Shot through with leavening humour, and many compelling characters. ★★★★★”
Financial Times UK: “Counting and Cracking offers a gentle but insistent plea for humanity. It’s impossible not to listen, rapt.”
Time Out Sydney: “We are left reckoning with how much we are all shaped by the family who came before us, the government who sit above us, and the people around us. This is a story of refuge, love, power and identity, and despite its three and a half hour running time, it flies by, as easy and essential as breathing. ★★★★★ “
The Australian: “Powerful Epic of Love and War, Exile and Reconciliation.”
Sydney Morning Herald: “S. Shakthidharan creates a marvellously detailed story, with rich characters accessible to those unfamiliar with Sri Lanka’s history.”
Suzy Goes See: “Shakthidharan’s work is warm and witty, generous in its seismic attempts to explain everything, taking us through half a century of untold stories to reach an understanding about the people we are today.”
Stage Whispers: “Counting and Cracking is a complete triumph in so many ways… This is an artistic collaboration like no other in recent Australian theatre and is something to be celebrated, cherished, and praised to the highest – truly groundbreaking and magnificent theatre.”
★★★★★ Stage Noise: “Simply enthralling… Seamlessly marries the personal and political.”
★★★★★ The AU Review: “An urgent work of high importance.”
★★★★★ HiFi Way: “Theatre that has the power to change lives.”
Reviews from Sri Lankan journalists:
eLanka: “It was brilliantly acted, tightly and yet meaningfully directed, and above all, the pathos that befell Sri Lanka in July 1983 depicted as the tragedy it was for the entire country.”
Tamil Sri Lankan review: “ஆனால், Counting & Cracking முற்றிலும் வித்தியாசமானது. adI truely mean it.”
Singhalese Sri Lankan review: “A story of survival and hope, of human connectedness, and our deep desire to understand three things – our history, our identity and what ‘home’ means to us.”
Review from migrant Australian journalist – FOLK Magazine : “I am so unspeakably glad that young brown kids can go see this play with their parents, and that they will understand more and more about the play for years to come.”
Counting and Cracking had a deep and profound impact on the local Sri Lankan community.
Click here to explore the full collection of community responses to the play. Below is a small sample.
Thank you for taking us on a bittersweet journey into our past.
I’ve just returned home after seeing a performance of Counting & Cracking. Thank you for taking us on a bittersweet journey into our past. A tremendous amount of research has gone into your production touching the depths of the Lankan soul. The deep rooted historicism, nostalgia and attention to detail of many aspects presented in this production left me touched to the core. The respect for traditions and community evident in the production gave an alternative reading to a western narrative often steeped in individualism and rationalism. How elevating it was to see the humanism underpinning every character. Never did I think Baudrillard’s Simulacra would be referenced in anything Lankan! My mother who went through similar experiences in 1983 was moved to tears and wanted me to convey her thanks to you for bringing this story to the Australian audience. We both held hands and sobbed together re-living the past. Every Lankan family has a similar story to tell – thanks for giving these stories a vehicle to reach the Australian public. Although our stories are filled with sorrow and pain my sincere thanks to you for transporting us back to our past with the scenes and sounds that aroused the whole spectrum of emotions. I could recognise many of your characters from my own life. Loved the strong female characters! Looking forward to what you’ll be doing next. Congratulations to you, your team and the fabulous cast.
Her response after seeing the show, for me, is exactly why I knew it would be a gamechanger for our community.
I would love to watch it again. Oh I really went back to the day the riots were happening. I was in year eight. Went to school as usual in the morning not knowing what happened over night then saw burnt cars on the road. But by recess schools were closed and no way to home and all. We didn’t have mobile phones back then went to my friends place near the school and rang my dad to pick me up. My friend was in Wellawattha where most of Tamils were living those days. On the way we saw everything oh dear shops were broken into set on fire and things were thrown on the roads and all. It was real in the show, I was wiping tears most of the last part. It was really really amazing job. Well done. Congratulations.
I wasn’t in tonight, but my whole class from North Parramatta Sinhala School was in and they were incredibly moved. This is the response from my teacher. I have been talking to her about Counting and Cracking for 3 years. As a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, she was skeptical of the story, of a Tamil family being the protagonists, of what ‘side’ the production may take. Her response after seeing the show, for me, is exactly why I wanted to be involved in this production, and why I knew it would be a gamechanger for our community. This is only the beginning, with many more conversations and connections to be made in order to move towards reconciliation and unity, but you have all moved us closer to that happening for the Sri Lankan’s that have seen our show. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Cast: Prakash Belawadi, Nicholas Brown, Jay Emmanuel, Rarriwuy Hick, Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Nadie Kammallaweera (Sydney), Ahi Karunaharan, Monica Kumar, Gandhi MacIntyre, Arky Michael (Adealaide), Shiv Palekar, Monroe Reimers, Hazem Shammas (Sydney), Nipuni Sharada, Kalieaswari Srinivasan (Adelaide), Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Rajan Velu, Sukania Venugopal
Musicians: Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda, Janakan Raj, Venkhatesh Sritharan (Sydney) / Shenzo Gregorio,
Arjunan Puveendran, Vinod Prasanna (Adelaide)
Cultural and Costume Advisor Anandavalli
Set & Costume Designer Dale Ferguson
Sound Designer & Composer Stefan Gregory
Lighting Designer Damien Cooper
Associate Writer Eamon Flack
Associate Director S. Shakthidharan
Fight Choreographer Nigel Poulton
Dialect Coach Linda Nicholls-Gidley
Associate Sound Designer Jessica Dunn
Associate Artist Suzanne Pereira
Assistant Director Carissa Licciardello
A co-production between Belvoir and Co-Curious / Supported by Create NSW and Nelson Meers Foundation / Counting and Cracking has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Major Festivals initiative, managed by the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals Inc., Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival / Supported by Belvoir’s Gamechangers
Production Images by Brett Boardman
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