fbpx

Community celebrates ‘Counting and Cracking’, an untold Sri Lankan-Australian story

Counting and Cracking

Community celebrates ‘Counting and Cracking’, an untold Sri Lankan-Australian story

Featured image by Brett Boardman Photography

Despite walking away with seven prestigious Helpmann Awards this year, Australian play Counting and Cracking has so much more to revel in.

Telling the story of four generations of a Sri Lankan-Australian family, the idea behind Counting and Cracking was borne by playwright S Shakthidharan (also known as Shakthi) over ten years ago, who described the decade-long process of producing the play as a ‘Herculean journey’.

“In a way, we were all terrified when it was on for the first time in Sydney, because after all that you really don’t want it to go badly,” he said.

“I was really concerned about how the play would go down in the community because we have a difficult history, and I thought people would walk out, but no one did, and that was really wonderful.

We haven’t seen a version of our history publicly like that before and it brought together a lot of different elements of the Sri Lankan community who wouldn’t normally be in the same space, and I think it shocked them that the story was told so clearly as an Australian story.

Counting and CrackingImage by Brett Boardman Photography

Shakthi was in his late-twenties when he was itching to learn more about his roots as a Sri Lankan Tamil, so he began talking to Sri Lankans in Australia and around the world to uncover more about his family’s past.

In doing so, a version of history emerged that Shakthi and others unfamiliar with the Sri Lankan civil war had never really been aware of.

“What I learnt while talking to people was that it was a very vibrant, cultural country, but some short-sighted politicians used the politics of division to make electoral wins, which had devastating long-term consequences,” Shakthi explained.

It felt very relevant to things that were happening in Australia and around the world, and it kind of became a learning about the fact that strong families and communities, a strong sense of multiculturalism, and strong democracies can’t be taken for granted.

“So, the play really changed into a story about four generations of this family that is broken apart and does everything it can to unify, and in telling the story, that family goes through this journey in Sri Lanka and Western Sydney.”

Counting and CrackingImage by Brett Boardman Photography

Making its premiere as part of Sydney Festival 2019, all Counting and Cracking shows were sold out and the production received glowing reviews from publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Limelight Magazine, Time Out Magazine and more.

Although the reviews and the Helpmann Awards were huge wins for the Counting and Cracking team, Shakthi explained that they mean so much more to the community.

“Symbolically, it’s really wonderful – the fact that a community-based Sri Lankan story was nominated for as many awards as Harry Potter, says … that we’re equal,” he said.

“Not in a way that is critically or commercially successful, but more so that it had an impact on the community that’s positive.

It feels really good to have that symbol and proof there to say that our stories are as much a part of this country’s make up as anyone else’s.

Counting and Cracking was co-produced by Belvoir Theatre Company, and Shakthi’s company Co-Curious. Learn more HERE


Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: editor@culturalpulse.com.au