2020 - Winner
A sprawling epic following four generations of a family from Sri Lanka to Sydney, this play impressively weaves past and present to astonishing effect. Siddhartha lives in Sydney in the early 2000s, a city his mother Rahda immigrated to from Sri Lanka decades earlier. A phone call announcing that Rahda’s husband, thought dead, is actually alive sets in motion a confrontation between the past and present of a family torn apart by civil war.
The play is striking, not only for its structural proficiency, but for its accomplishment in blending history, autobiography and fiction, its use of multiple languages and its choreographic precision in animating its large cast of characters. The resulting work demonstrates an impressive understanding of the possibilities of drama and a mastery of the theatrical medium. It tells its story with great humanity, allowing us to look at ourselves, the world and Australia as a whole.
Counting and Cracking is an astonishing writing achievement and an important contribution to the Australian playwriting canon. Not only does it leave its audience moved and informed, it provides a powerful message about the way division destroys us but love may save us. Acknowledging the complexity and chaos of the world we live in, this play provides a beacon that might help us to find a way through.