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Cultural Catalysts: Creativity in the Sri Lankan Diaspora


Playwright S. Shakthidharan, chef Manoli De Silva, and comedian Suren Jayemanne come together to discuss the ways history, creativity and Sri Lankan diaspora culture inform their work.

Recording & Photography

This event will be photographed and video & audio recorded for use by The Wheeler Centre and its partners.

About the Event

S. Shakthidharan’s debut play Counting and Cracking began with a shoebox of his great-grandfather’s letters. Working with his family and the wider Sri Lankan diaspora, he excavated his family’s history, weaving threads of culture and connection into a multi-award-winning theatrical epic following four generations over five decades.

To celebrate the Melbourne debut of this global hit, Shakthidharan is joined in conversation by Masterchef sensation Minoli De Silva, who infuses her culinary artistry with Sri Lankan flavours at Darwin’s Ella restaurant, and actor and comedian Suren Jayemanne, whose stand-up work draws on his experiences as an Australian with Sri Lankan heritage.

Hosted by journalist Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, these acclaimed Sri Lankan creatives come together for an insightful and celebratory exploration of how personal narratives and cultural influences shape their craft, from family kitchens to international stages.

Following the panel discussion, the SAARI Collective invites audience members from the South Asian community to join them for a special lunchtime event that celebrates the opening weekend of Counting and Cracking. Learn more about this free event here.


Please note: Sashi Perera is no longer able to appear at this event


Presented in partnership with The Wheeler Centre, RISING and University of Melbourne Arts and Culture (UMAC). 


Counting and Cracking plays at the Union Theatre from 31 May to 23 June as part of RISING. Tickets can be purchased via


Full $20
Concession $15
Pay What You Wish tickets are available for this event 


Book now


Accessible toilets available

Assistive Listening

Auslan interpreting available by request

Companion tickets available

Registered Assistance Animals welcome

Wheelchair accessible

For information regarding accessibility at Union Theatre, Arts and Cultural Building, click here.

Please notify us of all access requirements when booking online so we can assist you with your visit. If you require further information, please contact 

About the Book

S. Shakthidharan will be signing books after the event.  

The bookseller for this event is Readings.


Minoli De Silva

Minoli De Silva is a passionate chef that brings a vibrant energy both on and off the screen, most recently won the hearts of a national and international audience with her delightful personality, endearing mannerisms and flavour packed food on MasterChef Australia Season 13. Minoli made it to the t... Read more

Suren Jayamenne

Suren Jayemanne is an award-winning comedian, writer and presenter. Due to a lack of CPD hours, he is no longer allowed to call himself an accountant. While not himself an industry darling, he does play squash with some, making him industry darling adjacent. Suren’s TV appearances include Ques... Read more

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran is the Entertainment Editor at the ABC. Previously the Editor of ABC Everyday and Managing Editor of Crikey, a journalist and editor at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, she has also co-hosted podcasts, worked at various literary festivals and is a regular media commentator. B... Read more

S Shakthidharan

Shakthi is a western Sydney storyteller with Sri Lankan heritage and Tamil ancestry. He’s a writer, director and producer of theatre and film, and composer of original music. Belvoir: The Jungle and the Sea (Co-written with Eamon Flack) and Counting and Cracking (Associate Writer Eamon Flack). His... Read more


Union Theatre

159 Monash Road, Parkville, Arts & Cultural Building, University of Melbourne

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