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Counting and Cracking : Belvoir Street Theatre at Carriageworks

The Sri Lankan saga gala, COUNTING AND CRACKING, has returned to Sydney. Don’t miss it this time around. It premiered in Sydney in 2019 in the Town Hall. It then went to Adelaide, Melbourne, New York, Edinburgh and now it’s back, this time at Carriageworks, co-produced by Belvoir Theatre and Kurinji.

The dull concrete box at Carriageworks has been converted into a cheerful inviting theatre space. From the raked seating, we look down on a colourful family garden – first an Australian-Sri Lankan family’s garden, then the garden of their family in Sri Lanka. We are taken on a journey from 1956 to 2004 as we follow the travails of four generations. 1956 was the beginning of the serious troubles between the two language groups, the Tamils and the Sinhalese. After independence, the Parliament announced that the national language would now be Sinhalese, infuriating the minority Tamils. The play portrays language as the war’s trigger, not religion. The primary cultural identifier is language.

And the power of playwright’s language converts a tragically ‘everyday’ story into a masterpiece of the extraordinary depth. Counting and Cracking was written by S. Shakthidharan, in collaboration with Belvoir’s Eamon Flack. The play is partly autobiographical.

It begins on the banks of the Georges River as Radha and her son Siddhartha (Sid, to his Aussie friends) release the ashes of Radha’s mother. Mother and son are now free of the old country’s connections. But a phone call from Colombo plunges them back in time to the start of 30-year civil war.

Counting and Cracking received rave reviews wherever it has been performed. This production will, too. But curiosity drove this reviewer to wonder what Australian-Sri Lankans think of seeing themselves portrayed on stage. The answer was easy to find. Co-producer Kurinji’s website has a long section of quotes from Australian-Sri Lankans who have seen the play. The link is at the bottom of this article. The Sri Lankan diaspora is overjoyed by the production. One says “I went with my entire extended family. It was very exciting for our community, because there had never been a play that’s explored the issues of that war, of our history and migration to Australia.” The attention to detail is particularly noted by Sri Lankans, which the rest of us would have missed. For example, the Sri Lankan saris used for the 1956 scenes are different from the 2004 scenes, because the fashion had changed.

Congratulations to set designer Dale Ferguson.  Congratulations to all in the cast but especially Nadie Kammallaweera who played Radha. The other performers are Rodney Afif, Prakash Belawadi, Anthonythasan Jesuthasan, Nadie Kammallaweera, Ahi Karunaharan, Abbie-lee Lewis, Gandhi McIntyre, Shiv Palekar, Sukhbir Singh Walia, Kaivalysa Suvarna, Nipuni Sharada, Rajan Velu, and Sukania Venugop.

Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals Inc, Sydney Festival, Adel

Counting and Cracking runs for 3 and a half hours.

28th Jun – 21st July

For community comments:

Ticket purchases within 3 hours of the performance are not available online. Please visit Carriageworks Box Office or call
(02) 9699 3444.

Mobile captioned performance will be July 10 via the GoTheatrical app!


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