The audience is told in the introduction to Counting and Cracking that the show’s 19 performers originate from 11 countries and speak nine languages. Thus begins a multigenerational tale of Sri Lankan-Australian history, akin to that of a sweeping work of historical fiction.
Counting and Cracking is a stunning production. The staging is unique and captivating, with a subtle yet effective soundtrack performed live. The dizzying number of cast members are put to full use to play four generations of a family plus other key figures, with much of the dialogue spoken in native Tamil or Sinhalese and translated by actors slightly off-stage.
Ultimately the work is let down by trying to achieve too much. In weaving human elements into the Sri Lankan story for historical context we lose the effectiveness of either strand on its own. At three and a half hours, a more focused script would have delivered more punch in half the time. Despite this, Counting and Cracking is an affecting tale of migration, family, and cultural survival that contributes to an important contemporary discourse.