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New comedy troupe revives Cambodian theatre

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A NEW comedy is being premiered next week by a group of players dedicated to promoting Cambodian theatre and wooing more young audiences.

The play, called Daddy’s Fatherland, deals with an American-born girl called Judy, whose Khmer father is a master of traditional stringed instruments and whose mother is Chinese. This cultural brew produces a love of Cambodian arts that can flourish anywhere in the world.

Performers are from the Nouveau Comedy Theatre, established by Cambodian expat Im Kim Sour. After studying traditional dance and Bassac theatre at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, she obtained a Chinese scholarship to study arts in 1973 and then lived in France during the war. She later married and lived in Tokyo with her Japanese husband.

Im Kim Sour, whose Japanese name is Midori, said she was the first to teach Khmer traditional dance to French and Japanese pupils, and was a former dancer with the Cambodian Embassy in Tokyo.

“I created this group (Nouveau Comedy Theatre) as I saw that theatrical plays, especially Khmer traditional speaking dramas, have almost disappeared. Most students of theatre find it difficult to get a full-time job,” she said.

Putting her money where her mouth is, she funded the group to bring new theatrical experiences to Cambodian audiences, Im Kim Sour said.

Previously, when living in Japan, she had taught Khmer dance to Japanese high school pupils, who staged performances that raised a total of US$50,000 for a school in Cambodia.

She returned to live in Cambodia in 2002, discovering that the ancient Bassac theatre traditions had almost died out in Phnom Penh.

There are nine members of the Nouveau Comedy Theatre company, who are paid a monthly salary for rehearsals and performances.

Star of Daddy’s Fatherland is Im Chan Rotha, 21, who performs as the leading character Judy. She graduated in drama from the Secondary School of Fine Arts but has not been able to use her theatrical skills for three years.

“I love this performance,” she said. “But working in the theatre is much more difficult than acting on TV, because on film you can play the scenes several times before you get it right.

“I have more confidence in performing this premiere for our group because I believe that Cambodian people will get a new feeling and become interested in the theatre,” she added.

Rehearsals have been taking place for the past three months, with at least four hours a day being spent on fleshing out the comedy business.

Daddy’s Fatherland opens on February 18 and plays every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until March 13 at 4:30pm at 2 Royal University of Phnom Penh (near Phnom Penh Airport). Tickets cost $2 for students, $3 for reserved tickets, and $4 for walk-in tickets. For bookings, call 077 363 390. HR

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