Fresh from performing at not one but two Siem Reap New Year’s Eve parties including the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa where performers jumped into the swimming-pool at the countdown to midnight, brand new troupe ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’ opens in town on February 8.
Phare is the little sister of acclaimed circus school Phare Ponleu Selpak which has been established in Battambang since 1994 and toured internationally throughout Europe and Asia.
Plans have been afoot for some months for the new venue and the 400-seater ‘grand chapiteau’ (big top) is on order from France. But, as it will not arrive until May, Phare will open with a series of open-air performances.
“We have rented land behind the Angkor National Museum, in front of Angkor Century Resort and Spa,” says Phare Ponleu Selpak Enterprise co-director Huot Dara.
“Because it is not raining at the moment we thought we could do something with outdoor performance. It is being designed at the moment – we will have seats on a mattress and also
The open-air venue will seat approximately 300 people.
The first production to open at Phare will be Putho!, an allegory about the relationship between boys and girls in Cambodia, complete with live musical accompaniment. The show will include acrobatics, tightrope walking and contortion, performed by 11 artists aged between 18 and 25.
“Putho! is actually a story written by all the students taking part,” says Huot. “Before graduation their professor asked them to do something on any topic they wanted. So they came up with topics that they could relate to: a lot about violence, about love, broken hearts, and parent-children relationships. There is a scene about homosexuality as well, which gives the title of the show, Putho!, meaning ‘oh my god!’”
Despite these themes, Huot says Putho! is a family show with many comical elements.
“It is very adapted for family, lots of fun scenes. Nowadays in many of our shows there is more integration between the characters and the musicians. The musicians themselves have their own characters. They have stories.”
In addition to Putho!, rehearsals have started for a brand new show entitled Khmer Metal, due to be performed in France this autumn. The production deals with some dark themes.
“It is about the Phnom Penh underground,” says Huot. “About drug trafficking, about those who live a different life from the city people. It is a lot about street music which is not played on conventional instruments. And it is great – beautiful music.
“It was premiered for the first time and it is in the process of having an external stage director from France clean it up and make it even better.”
As Khmer Metal and Putho! have the same cast, Huot plans to show Khmer Metal once a week at Phare in order to get the show ready for France.
“We think that maybe once a week we will do Putho!, and then Khmer Metal. It is a question of getting the artists ready, because after this they will go on summer tours in Europe, then to Japan. So they will have no chance to perform Khmer Metal. So we will to get them to perform in Siem Reap between February and March.”
Tickets for the daily, 7pm show will cost $15 although Phare Ponleu Selpak plans to organise weekly visits for children from local NGOs.
“We are thinking of making special arrangements. Once a week we will welcome children from an organisation for free, for example every Monday Friends International will bring their children. Then maybe other organisations, once or twice a week.”
Tickets will be available from the performance venue, the ticketing office behind ANZ Royal bank next to Asian Trails, and from various guesthouses and travel agencies.