Shakthi is a western Sydney storyteller with Sri Lankan heritage and Tamil ancestry.
He’s a writer, director and producer of film and theatre, as well as a composer and performer of original music.
As a writer, Shakthi’s debut play was Counting and Cracking. Co-produced by Belvoir and Co-Curious, Counting and Cracking is a 3 hour epic with 16 actors and 3 musicians hailing from 6 different countries. It had a sell out season at Sydney Festival 2019, followed by the Adelaide Festival, with rave reviews and a profound impact on the Sri Lankan community. Shakthi was also a Producer and Associate Director on the production. The script won the Victorian Premier’s overall Literature Prize and the NSW Premier’s Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting. The production has gone on to win 7 Helpmann Awards including 2 for Shakthi – Best New Australian Work and Best Direction of a Play. It also won the Sydney Theatre Award for Best New Australian Work and was nominated for Best Direction of the Mainstage Production. The play toured to Edinburgh Festival and Birmigham’s Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival in 2022, again to rave reviews and deeply affecting audiences. Shakthi is in active development adapting Counting and Cracking as a television series with a major Australian production company.
Shakthi’s most recent play The Jungle and the Sea premiered in November 2022 at Belvoir, again and with rave reviews and a profound impact on the Sri Lankan community. It won 4 Sydney Theatre Awards in January 2023, including Best Mainstage Production. The Jungle and the Sea was co-written and co-directed with Eamon Flack.
Shakthi’s play adaptation of The Bone Sparrow by Zana Frallon toured around the UK in 2022, in a co-production with Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, and Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Shakthi has a number of new plays in development with Belvoir St Theatre and is developing a feature film for him to direct with feature producer John Maynard / Felix Media.
As a co-writer, director and producer, Shakthi’s most recent screen project, Laka, is a multi-platform 45 minute film, audiovisual installation and VR project that travelled to contemporary arts centres and festivals around the world. Other works include 75 minute film Riz (Sydney Film Festival 2015, Carriageworks 2013), site-specific audiovisual experience The Other Journey (Parramasala 2011, Ten Days on the Island 2013), dance/documentary work Zameen (Floating Land Festival, Parramasala and Attakalari Bienniale, 2013) and hybrid theatre/dance work The Migrant Project (Performance Space 2005, Street Theatre and Seymour Centre 2006, Hyde Park Barracks Museum 2007).
Shakthi was the Artistic Lead at Co-Curious 2018-2022, whose feature film Here Out West opened Sydney Film Festival 2021 (Shakthi was an EP on the project). The unique position of Co-Curious is that it supports writers to bring their stories to life with fidelity to their communities and at the same time attract mainstream theatre and film industry partners. Co-Curious is the sister company to CuriousWorks, where Shakthi was the Founder and Artistic Director from 2003-2018. During this time he led the CuriousWorks team to develop an award-winning model for the innovative use of creative digital media in underprivileged communities. This work has led to several long-term, multi-platform arts initiatives as well as significant grassroots social change in communities in Western Sydney, remote Western Australia and Northern Melbourne. Shakthi grew CuriousWorks from a start up in his bedroom to one of the leading community arts companies in the country.
Shakthi was Associate Artist at Belvoir 2019-2022. He was Associate Artist at Carriageworks from 2013-2015 and a founding directorate member of National Theatre of Parramatta in 2017. In 2015, he was awarded the Phillip Parson’s Playwright Award from Belvoir Theatre and in 2011 the Kirk Robson Award by Australia Council for the Arts, given to an artist for their work in relation to social justice and community cultural leadership.
Header image by Ken Leanfore, courtesy of Belvoir; below image by Alex Vaughan.