By S.Shakthidharan and Associate Writer Eamon FlackDramaBelvoir and Co-Curious

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.

Counting and Cracking is a big new play about Australia like none we’ve seen before. This is life on a large canvas, so we are leaving Belvoir St and building a Sri Lankan town hall inside Sydney Town Hall. Sixteen actors play four generations of a family, from Colombo to Pendle Hill, in a story about Australia as a land of refuge, about Sri Lanka’s efforts to remain united, about reconciliation within families, across countries, across generations.

We’ve done some big shows before – Cloudstreet, Angels in America. This is big too, but in a different way: it’s a new kind of Australian story. What makes it magnificent is its grand theatrical sweep, and its vision – deeply moving, compelling – necessary, of why we must never flag in the pursuit of an open society.

Portrait of S.Shakthidharan and Associate Writer Eamon Flack

S.Shakthidharan and Associate Writer Eamon Flack

S.Shakthidharan

Shakthi is an Australian storyteller with Sri Lankan heritage and Tamil ancestry. He's a writer, director and producer of film and theatre. He's also a composer of original music and one half of the band Kurinji.

As a writer, Shakthi's debut play is 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, with rave reviews and a profound impact on the Sri Lankan community. Shakthi was also a Producer and Associate Director on the production. The production has gone on to win 7 Helpmann Awards including 2 for Shakthi – Best New Australian Work and Best Direction of a Play. Shakthi’s latest play is programmed for the Belvoir 2020 season.

As a co-writer, director and producer, Shakthi's most recent screen project, Laka, is a multi-platform feature film, audiovisual installation and VR project travelling to contemporary arts centres and festivals around the world.

Both Laka and Counting and Cracking form part of Shakthi's Colony body of work, a universe of interconnected stories stretching from before colonisation through to an imagined 22nd century.

Other works include feature 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 – The Dam(n) Project (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 is currently Lead Artistic Consultant at Co-Curious. Co-Curious is a community arts organisation which works with the Western Sydney community to identify new storytellers, prepare storytellers for the industry and co-produce projects with film and TV companies. He was Founder and Artistic Director of CuriousWorks from 2003-2018, where his leadership led to several long-term, multi-platform arts initiatives as well as significant grassroots social change in communities in Western Sydney and remote Western Australia.

Shakthi has been an Associate Artist at Carriageworks and a founding directorate member of National Theatre of Parramatta. In 2015, he was awarded the Phillip Parson's Playwright Award and in 2011 the Kirk Robson Award by the Australia Council, given to an artist for their work in relation to social justice and community cultural leadership.

Eamon Flack

Eamon was appointed as the Artistic Director of Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney in 2016. He was born in Singapore in 1979 and grew up with three brothers in Singapore, Darwin, Cootamundra, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. He trained as an actor at WAAPA and has since worked as a director, writer, actor and dramaturg around Australia and internationally. He has led Belvoir’s new work development in various guises since 2006, and has commissioned and developed many of the more distinctive new Australian plays of the last decade. He has divided his directing career between canonical mainstage plays and unlikely new works.

His productions of The Glass Menagerie and Angels in America won both Helpmann Awards for Best Play. His other key directing credits for Belvoir St Theatre include: Counting and Cracking (winner of the Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play), his adaptation of Hendrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, The Rover, The Great Fire, The Blind Giant, Mother Courage and Babyteeth.  The Eamon’s key writing and adaptation credits for Belvoir St Theatre include; Associate Writer on S.Shakthidharan’s epic play Counting and Cracking (winner of the 2019 Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work), adapting Hendrik Ibsen’s Ghosts and co-adapting with Leah Purcell, Ruby Langford Ginibi’s Don’t Take Your Love To Town. He also adapted Sophocles’s Antigone, directed by Matthew Lutton for ThinIce and Perth International Arts Festival.

Most recently Eamon directed Tommy Murphy’s Packer & Sons and Tom Wright’s Adaptation of Brecht’s Life of Galileo for Belvoir St Theatre.

Judges’ report

Counting and Cracking is a play of great scope and sweep – taking place as it does over several international locations and time periods, folding in a nation’s rawest wounds and crises – that also manages to speak intimately of the ties that bind people within and between cultures. Highly ambitious and wonderfully assured, it is a post-colonial work of sublime generosity and humour; a sober reflection of the painful path our peoples have taken to reach our shores, and a grand and moving celebration of cultural diversity and human spirit.

Extract

To view an extract from this play, click here.

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