This is an Australian story. It’s not only an Australian story, but it is definitely an Australian story. Much of it takes place in Sri Lanka: the story of Australia is the story of many places, many people. Ours is a migrant nation on Aboriginal land. At its best it is a land of refuge and new beginnings. With each successive wave of arrivals, from the earliest times to the English boats, to now, the country has changed, and the national story has changed. Counting and Cracking is a new offer to that big unfolding story.
It is about many things, but at the heart of it is the fundamental need every one of us has to connect to each other, the world, the past, and the future. Most of our lives are spent making and nurturing these connections. We do this on every scale of life, in small ways and big ways. The small ways are usually age-old, closely-held things – love, family, language, story, belief, food, home, place, the passage of time from one generation to the next. The big ways are more likely to be newer, more public inventions – the big shared narratives of national identity, political negotiation, economic purpose. Counting and Cracking is about the relationship between the big stuff and the small stuff, and what happens when the big stuff tears apart the small stuff. A language shattered, a family torn apart, a place torn down – these things are fragile. They cannot be taken for granted. We inherit them, they are in our keeping. The big stuff must take care of the small stuff. The small stuff is what matters most. We cannot be a nation or a whole person if we cannot keep hold of these connections. And when a person or a group of people have been torn apart then the only thing to do is to begin again – to revive the old connections, or make new ones. Fortunately, new connections are always possible. New stories are always possible. We mix from here and there, from now and the past. Water and water.
This show is the product of new connections. Bringing it together took an almighty effort by a great coalition of people from many walks of life. Belvoir could not have done this without Co-Curious, and Co-Curious could not have done this without Belvoir. We each had to discover what we did and didn’t know, and what the other knew that we didn’t. Step by step, through days then weeks then years of conversation, we began to see that this show was not just necessary, it was also possible. Then we had to convince a lot of other people that it was necessary and possible. We had to find new partners, new collaborators. Most people were willing – not all, but most. We travelled around Australia. We travelled to London, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. We spoke to people in Paris, Wellington, Toronto, New York. We travelled all around Sri Lanka, from Colombo to Jaffna to Kayts to Batticaloa. Little by little the coalition of people and organisations grew. Together it has taken our two companies almost six years to bring everything into alignment, and it has only been possible because hundreds of people from all over Australia and around the world have joined in.
Counting and Cracking is playing at Sydney Town Hall as part of Sydney Festival, 11 January – 2 February.