Sri Lankan epic receives four Helpmann Awards
Eamon Flack and S. Shakthidharan pose with their Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play. Photo credit: Getty Images

Sri Lankan epic receives four Helpmann Awards

July 15, 2019   05:47 pm


Belvoir Street Theater’s multi-generational epic Counting & Cracking won four Helpmann Awards on Sunday night, including Best Direction of a Play for co-directors Eamon Flack and S. Shakthidharan.

Described as ‘an epic, exhilarating and deeply moving play’ by ArtsHub, Counting & Cracking utilises 16 actors, three musicians and six languages to tell a story that blends Sri Lankan history with the Australian migrant experience. 

Its success suggests a significant shift in the cultural landscape towards works which more accurately reflect contemporary, multicultural Australia.

The production, which premiered at Sydney Festival in January before opening at Adelaide Festival in March, also received Helpmann Awards for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play (Vaishnavi Suryaprakash), Best Scenic Design (Dale Ferguson) and Best Sound Design (Stefan Gregory).

Counting & Cracking is also nominated for Best New Australian Work, alongside Spinifex Gum, Barbara and the Camp Dogs, Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death, The Harp in the South: Part One and Part Two and Lé Nør (The Rain). The winning work will be announced on Monday night.

Accepting his award with Flack, Shakthidharan said: ‘I think Australia is at a bit of a crossroads and we can eat up what everyone is telling us and retreat into our tribes, and best case scenario is that we tolerate each other – or we can take a deep breath and … embrace the messiness and gloriousness of solidarity.

‘I’ve grown up listening to and watching stories that aren’t my own and I’ve found ways to relate, so if you’re scared please don’t be – there’s a lot more stories coming out there but if we take the deep dive into them you’ll find a way to relate to them as well, and I think we’ll all be the better for it,’ he said to applause.

Earlier in the night, accepting the Helpmann for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash said of Counting & Cracking: ‘As little as three years ago I would never have even imagined that something like Counting & Cracking would exist on an Australian mainstage theatre … I think we have a collective responsibility now, to make the most of this step forward and be more imaginative and more inclusive when it comes to storytelling, when it comes to casting and when it comes to programming. If Counting & Cracking is anything to go by, I think Australian audiences are more than ready for it.’

The Helpmann Awards ceremony is staged across two nights, with more awards to be presented on Monday evening at Arts Centre Melbourne.

The split ceremony marks the first time the Helpmanns have been presented in Melbourne.


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