Adelaide Festival

Festival Review: Counting and Cracking

An epic journey that spans four generations from the urban battlefields of Sri Lanka to Sydney’s Pendle Hill, from Columbo to Coogee.

We share the world - we don't own it

Reviewed at the Adelaide Showgrounds on 3 March 2019

Presented by Belvoir and Co-Curious

An epic journey that spans four generations from the urban battlefields of Sri Lanka to Sydney’s Pendle Hill, from Columbo to Coogee. This magnificent odyssey of a play, written by S. Shakthidharan, spans four generations of a Sri Lankan family and leaves you breathless with the thrill of a journey that leaves you questioning the morality of what Australia has done to people who have been forced by no fault of their own to seek refuge here and how life is always, and always will be unpredictable.

Director Eamon Flack has assembled a cast of sixteen talented human beings from all corners of this wonderful planet we live on to tell a story of family, factions, flirtations and folly. The ceaseless action of this piece of brilliant writing demands a great ability to tell clear stories.

It is hard to separate out who gave a better performance than anyone else; this is a dream ensemble of dream actors. Prakash Belawadi, Nicholas Brown, Jay Emmanuel Young, Rarriwuy Hick, Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Ahilan Karunahan, Monica Kumar, Gandhi MacIntyre, Arky Michael, Shiv Palekar, Monroe Reimers, Nipuni Sharada, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Rajan Velu, and Sukania Venugopal bring to life upwards of 35 characters with effortless ease. The simultaneous translations that allow us to follow the plot as an actor speaks in Tamil, Singhalese, Arabic are so sensitively done it assists the work and gives us the opportunity to experience the effect of the text twice. Brilliant!

The weaving of stories, cultures and legends enthral us for three hours as we watch actors transform effortlessly before our eyes: all but one of this cast plays a variety of roles, nobody in this cast has a selfish bone in their body, nobody in this cast lets their eye off the ball for single second, they simply couldn’t let each other down. The seamless weaving of a complex plot demands courage and vision and Eamon Flack has excelled in his attention to detail. The scene changes are themselves works of genius; they happen with a flourish that moves the action on and sets up the next platform for the actors to work on before you realise they have happened.

Music that accompanies and underscores scenes is handled so deftly it never pulls focus away from the action but underpins the emotional value of the work without you noticing. It is as clever and effective as any film underscore. The musicians are an integral part of the make-up of this piece, Shenzo Gregorio, Arjunan Puveendran, Vinod Prasanna led by Alan John provide an authentic and vivid musical background to the work.

Dale Ferguson’s set design, resembling an Indian temple, like a chameleon changes as befits the scene it represents. It is simple, clear and superbly judged, and his costume designs are excellent. The set is a blank canvas for the actors to draw pictures on and the simplicity of the design allows the director to create transformations with no more effort than, for example, the addition of a chair, different light and sound applications, a banana palm and the light and sound design are a bonus that fills out the story and activates our imagination. This can only be achieved with a backstage staff of the highest quality.

This is a company that knows how to develop and maintain an epic work of the highest quality. Its commitment to excellence allows it to let the story do its work and lift and carry us through four generations of a family in three hours and come away feeling changed and fortified by a story that shows us that our land is built on the people who choose to come here and be part of an ancient land and culture that will accept us if we listen to it. We share this land, we don’t own it. In fact, the message I took away is we share this world, we don’t own it. My inner warrior wants everyone to see this play, for everyone to experience the courage, determination, fear and hopelessness this play allows us to experience. It is a play about survival, endurance and the power of love. It is a joy to experience. Don’t miss it!

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Venue: Ridley Centre, Adelaide Showgrounds 
Season: Sat 02 Mar, 7:00pm, Sun 03 Mar, 5:00pm,Tue 05 Mar, 7:00pm, Wed 06 Mar, 1:00pm, 7:00pm,Thu 07 Mar, 7:00pm, Fri 08 Mar, 7:00pm, Sat 09 Mar, 1:00pm, 7:00pm
Duration:  3 hr 10 min, including 2 x 20 min intervals
Tickets:  $89, RAA $80, Friends $76, Conc $72, U30 $45 Transaction fees apply


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