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BrumHour saw Counting and Cracking at the invite of Birmingham Rep.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/brumhour
This production contains scenes of physical intimidation and strong language.
Review: Counting and Cracking at Birmingham Rep
Written and directed by S. Shakthidharan
New South Wales, Australia 2004: Siddhartha known as Sid (played by Shiv Palekar) meets law student Lily (Abbie Lee Lewis) whilst they are both living and studying in Coogee by the sea. Siddhartha sends his neighbour, an air conditioning installer (Rodney Afif), to his mother’s house 40km away at Pendle Hill. His mother Radha (Nadie Kammallaweera) is not in a welcoming mood as a man with connections to her Sri Lankan past also turns up on the doorstep. We discover all is not what it first seems in the single-parent household of Radha as she starts to speak of the past and her lost life back in Sri Lanka.
Using signposts with the year on, this complex and involved story covers different days in Radha’s existence from her birth in the late 1950s across the late 1970s and into the early 1980s and leaving Sri Lanka for Australia. This is a big story of family life presented against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s politics. Her father Apah (Prakash Belawadi)’s own political life makes things very challenging for the family at times as he stands up for his beliefs.
Told in three parts, Counting and Cracking justifies its three and a half hours (including two intervals) by innovating and demonstrating what theatre can do. This is an ambitious story which uses very little in the way of set, there are lots of window blinds to create the walls and two large gates dominating the rear centre of the stage. Sometimes a single object is placed in the centre of the stage. The other actors become the set as they hold objects, they are a collection of storytellers.
Whilst the project was created in Australia it features live translation into English of several languages including Sinhalese and Tamil. It also features actors from six countries.
Because this production was travelling from the other side of the world and only doing two stops in the UK (the first being Edinburgh and these Birmingham Rep dates being the second stop) I felt confident that even though this was a big production, it hadn’t been shipped over here without being special. It is indeed very special, though there are plenty of characters and reveals to keep you paying attention throughout.
A warm, informative story about population dispersal caused by politics. The story contains lots of relatable humour which makes the more serious and dramatic moments gut punch even more.
Counting and Cracking is very deserving of five stars and is at Birmingham Rep until 27th August. Book tickets here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/counting-and-cracking