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Two tourists dance their way out of a monsoon in the show. Photo supplied
Two tourists dance their way out of a monsoon in the show. Photo supplied

Comedic circus show plays on ‘but different’

After a successful test run, a comedic new show is set to join Phare, the Cambodian Circus’s permanent rotation this weekend. Same Same But Different compares some of the cultural differences between Westerners and Cambodians.

In contrast with Phare’s other shows, Same Same But Different has a theatrical focus while still retaining the jaw-dropping acrobatic moments the circus is known for. That is largely due to an EU initiative to enhance training programs for Cambodian artists. Phare is one of the recipients of the three-year grant. 

Each grant workshop welcomes trainees from organisations across Cambodia. At Phare, sessions in aerial acrobatics, costumes, music and artistic creation enabled fresh ideas. “We couldn’t have reached Same Same But Different without those workshops,” says Xavier Gobin, Phare’s program coordinator. “After eight years of the same but successful pattern of shows, I felt like we needed something different.”

The show features a series of scenarios where tourists and Cambodians collide. White masks differentiate the Western and Khmer characters. One scene portrays a group of Europeans at a Cambodian restaurant. The masked Westerners babble between small mouthfuls of their food while a Cambodian group seated on the floor nearby devour their meal with a blurry display of impressive juggling.

The young performers had considerable input into Same Same But Different, thanks to the artistic creation workshop. “I think the biggest cultural difference between a Westerner and a Khmer is the way they eat,” says Noub Kanha, one of the show’s stars. “They talk so much and eat so slow.”

A standout moment of the show is when Kanha and another performer, Bo Ratha, playing two tourists stuck in a monsoon, dance out of the mud and are lifted into the air by rigging. Ratha, attached to the ropes, supports Kanha as they fly above the audience in a beautiful sequence of aerial acrobatics.

Although the show is about cultural differences, through comedy and well-acted scenarios, Same Same But Different instills a sense of unity. This Monday, Phare welcomed George Edgar, the EU’s ambassador to Cambodia, for a visit.

“Phare Ponleu Selpak and Phare Performing Social Enterprise are a success in many ways: as a social enterprise, in providing opportunities for young people in areas facing serious social problems, and as a centre for creativity,” he told Post Weekend.

“I am proud that the EU is supporting Phare Ponleu Selpak.” Same Same But Different will return to Phare, the Cambodian Circus from December 3 through December 13.

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