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Bambu Stage and New Cambodian Artists with Nick Coffill (second from left).
Bambu Stage and New Cambodian Artists with Nick Coffill (second from left). Nicky Sullivan

New stage set for creative alliance

Cultural awareness key as new company aims to bring history to life through theatre and dance

On a mission to bring ancient culture and history to life through modern dance and theatre, the Bambu Stage Siem Reap theatre company launched on Thursday with a dynamic contemporary dance collaboration featuring project partners New Cambodian Artists.

On a specially constructed stage that has been designed to emulate a multi-tiered outdoor auditorium and enhance the audience’s connection with the dancers, the hour-long performance presented three dances firmly rooted in the strict discipline of Cambodian classical dance juxtaposed with the flair and freedom of modern styles.

It was the beginning of a season of thrice-weekly performances at the stage set up in the gardens beside the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa, and the first of a series of collaborations that Bambu Stage’s creative director Nick Coffill hopes will build on Siem Reap’s culturally aware tourist market.

Coffill, an Australian, has spent the past 20 years working with museums all over the world, from Shanghai to London to Ontario, helping them animate their knowledge through theatre in order to draw wider audiences.

He has been watching Siem Reap for the last two years, he says, and the town’s emergence as a historical and cultural destination made it a natural choice for him to create something new with the support of Singapore-based company Live Media Theatre.

“We started looking at these cities where people come because they’re already emotionally engaged with history and culture,” he said.

“In places like Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Georgetown and Siem Reap, you see the evolution of a craft culture in response, with the development of painting, art galleries, cafes and restaurants, and the same thing is starting to happen in Siem Reap.

“There’s this nascent energy here, and it needs a kind of spark to inflame it.”

It’s Coffill’s hope that Bambu Stage might be part of that spark, creating a platform for other creatives such as photographers, cinematographers, directors, choreographers and dancers to find a place where they can develop their skills, especially, says Coffill, in view of the eviction and removal of Siem Reap’s School of Arts to a location outside of town that has rendered it largely defunct.

Bambu Stage Siem Reap is currently partnering with New Cambodian Artists; however, Coffill is also looking at developing performances with locally based historians, archaeologists and academics in order to create something completely new that should be ready to run during the next season.

“We’re working with experts to create a script so that people can come in and see their guidebooks come to life,” he said.

“There may be an archaeologist on stage with some objects, good lighting and performers, and through this, you can start to see how the temples were built, where the stone came from and the relationships with the environment.

“It’s about creating a bigger understanding of the whole picture.”

Bambu Stage perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 7pm for show start at 8pm. Tickets are $18.

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