Counting and Cracking : The deep truths of reconciliation

Photo- Supplied.

MELBOURNE, 1 June, 2024: On my way to the Union Theatre, University of Melbourne, I was a bit tense about the prospect of a three and half hours (with two 15 minutes each intervals) of stage show. That also watching theatre after a long time. Little did I know, Counting and Cracking, a slice of Sri Lanka in Sydney, would take me into a tale, I often heard from Sri Lankan friends. The community was divided and the damage to human relations immense.

Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict and its gigantic socio-political intricacies are too well known. This presentation was no exception, watching it on stage with 19 performers from six countries speaking five languages playing 55 characters, and laced with live performers playing Carnatic music was a treat. The crowd was mainly Sri Lankan origin and mainstream theatre lovers. The lovely theatre hall and its surroundings (decorated with colourful buntings) including a bar and subcontinent snacks added to the South Asian ambience.

The play kicked of with Siddarth (Shiv Palekar) reluctantly performing his grand-mothers funeral ritual in Sydney, where he lives and is in love with a fellow Australian student. Their courtship with innocent and rustic dialogues reveal the subjectivity and contradictions of migrant love steeped in ethnic origins.

Director S. Shakthidharan and Director Eamon Flack’s story-telling moves to the 1983 Tamil-Sinhala tensions and the Sri Lankan civil war. The anti-Tamil riots in Colombo and their aftermath is weaved into a four-generations five decades long (1956-2004) family epic, rarely seen on the stage.

The arguments over communities living together or one community fighting for separation builds the focus of the play into a saga often seen in many countries. The ultimate decision to migrate to safety from a conflict ridden small island Sri Lanka to a far away big island country Australia is taken, but not easily.

Getting pulled out of one’s motherland and starting a new life is good in theory. The new is safe but the past haunts. It was one struggle there and another here. That’s what life is.

This play should be seen by all migrants for its realistic staging of a migrant family’s splitting and coming together. The actors do a commendable job.  The rather sensitive subject interwoven with dialogues in different languages is translated. The SriLanka conflict has its roots in the imposition of Sinhala language as the national language and the rest is history. Ultimately, the so much happenings to have a separate nation is also history. Much more has happened. Will other countries learn?

Well done, Counting and Cracking team.

I was given a complementary ticket to see this play.


Artistic Team

Writer and Associate Director

S. Shakthidharan

Director and Associate Writer

Eamon Flack


Rodney Afif, Prakash Belawadi, Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Nadie Kammallaweera, Ahilan Karunaharan, Abbie-Lee Lewis, Gandhi McIntyre, Radhika Mudaliyar, Shiv Palekar, Dushan Philips, Sukhbir Singh Walia (Sunny), Kaivalya Suvarna, Nipuni Sharada, Rajan Velu, Sukania Venugopal, Senuri Chandrani


Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda, Janakan Suthanthiraraj, Venkhatesh Sritharan

Costume and Cultural Advisor, Choreographer


Set and Costume Designer

Dale Ferguson

Lighting Designer

Damien Cooper

Sound Designer and Composer

Stefan Gregory

Stage Manager

Sheryl Talmage, Emily Oades


A Belvoir St Theatre Production

Co-produced with Kurinji

Originally Co-Produced with Co-Curious

Co-commissioned by Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals Inc, Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival and Belvoir St Theatre.

Presented by University of Melbourne Arts and Culture and RISING a Belvoir St Theatre and Kurinji Co-Production.

By Neeraj Nanda

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