In The Making : Counting and Cracking

Tue 20 February

Writer S. Shakthidharan takes us into the journey that led to Counting and Cracking's epic scope.

Counting and Cracking is a story of secrets and truths that follows a family over five decades—from post-colonial Sri Lanka to Western Sydney. S. Shakthidharan researched and developed Counting and Cracking over ten years, in collaboration with his own family and the wider Sri Lankan diaspora. Below, he explains how he weaved threads of connection into something truly expansive.

“Ten years ago I was hungry. Hungry to learn about my mother's homeland. To know my history. So I started on a journey that had no clear end. I read everything there was to read on the subject. I had conversations with so many gracious and intelligent Sri Lankans from all around the world. I was reeling from the overload, but slowly, very slowly, a story was being born. It was a story about parents and children. About coming together and breaking apart and coming together again - in our families, our governments, our countries.

And this story became something bigger than my own hunger. It became something that had a power. The power to help my mother reconcile with her homeland. To connect people across deep divides. The power to collapse time and join continents.

The story became less about fitting my community into a simple narrative, and more about presenting a group of people in all their glorious complexity. It became less about discovering “the truth” of what happened in Sri Lanka, or what brought us to Australia, and more about understanding the stage as a sacred space where many truths can gather at once.

The stories we choose to believe in underlie all our actions, thoughts and feelings. In Counting and Cracking I hope to provide audiences with a new story to believe in: about Australia, about Sri Lanka. It's a story in which migrants are not asked to discard parts of themselves to fit in, but instead are asked to present their full selves, to expand our idea of what this country can be. It's a story of how the politics of division can win the battle, but never the war, around how power is gained in this world. It's a story in which love may not triumph over adversity, but through sheer persistence and resilience can eventually overcome it. And finally it's a story about reconciliation: between parents and children, between neighbours and enemies, between your new home and your old home, between society and its institutions.

It's been quite the ride for Co-Curious and Belvoir, as both companies have utilised their different sets of expertise to make this wildly ambitious dream a reality. Neither company could have done it on its own. Much like the story of Counting and Cracking, the process of making this work proves that real power can be gained when different groups come together to create something new.”

S. Shakthidharan

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