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The Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Bo performing Sbek Thom as part of the Seasons of Cambodia in New York in April 2013.
The Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Bo performing Sbek Thom as part of the Seasons of Cambodia in New York in April 2013. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Puppet troupe competing in Bangkok festival

Vann Sopheavouth, the leader of the Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Bo, is once again on a mission to introduce the Cambodian ancient shadow puppet art form of sbek thom to international audiences.

Vann Sopheavouth, the leader of the Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Bo, is once again on a mission to introduce the Cambodian ancient shadow puppet art form of sbek thom to international audiences.

Sopheavouth has worked tirelessly since 1993 to conserve the Khmer traditional shadow theatre, and in April last year his troupe performed sbek thom for the first time as part of the Seasons of Cambodia Festival in New York.

Now he and his troupe are in Bangkok to take part in the Harmony World Puppet Carnival 2014 from November 1-10, together with166 troupes from 80 countries.

“We are going to be the representatives of Cambodia on the international stage,” Sopheavouth said. “We are so proud to promote our leather theatre, our beautiful facet of traditional Khmer culture, in front of representatives from 80 countries. It is a special chance to show them who we are, where we come from and what we bring to the festival.”

He is in Bangkok with 25 members of his troupe who, as well as displaying their art, will also be in the running for some substantial prize money – the winning troupe will receive $10,000, second place winners will get $5000 and the third place winners will take home $3000. “We have confidence of success in our performance,” he said. “And we are chasing the first prize in this official competition.” He added that one of his secret weapons will be to forgo electric lighting for the performances and instead opt for lighting in the “natural way” using burning torches to cast shadows.

“We try to do some great things that our ancestors did in the ancient times, so it will become most interesting for people in this modern era,” he noted.

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