A TEAM of actors and dancers from the Mozart Music Centre wowed crowds at the Lakhoan Theatre Festival last week, with a performance of their new play, Piano Peanor, at Chenla Theatre.
Translated as “Piano Monkey”, the performance was a one of the stand-outs at this year’s Lakhoan Festival, organised by the Institute Francais.
Drawing in the audience with a tranquil display Khmer traditional dance, the routine was suddenly cut by the sounds of gunfire and falling bombs, sending the actors scuttling for cover to the far corner of the stage.
Re-emerging dressed in black with fluorescent skeleton bones painted on their costumes, the actors resumed their ghostly dance, a sequence which the play’s director, Hang Rithyravuth, described as a depicting the horrors of war.
“The core message of the story is about living, morality, and immortality. The story talks about the family of artists’ teachers who have separated by the war. Their bad memories and sadness have remained after the war,” he explained.
“So my purpose is also to remind the country leaders about the wrong ways of governance that could not find the immortality,” Rithyravuth added.
At the conclusion of the one and a half hour show Rithyravuth told the Post, he wrote Piano Peanor especially for the Lakhoan Festival, and believes the play’s first public performance was a huge success.
“I think one reason it was a success is that my imagination and ideas have been shown to an audience. Another reason is that I’ve trained successfully artists who have never performed on the stage before.”
Rithyravuth said he had been considering writing a play about the horrors of war for a long time, and submitted the idea to the organisers of the Lakhoan Festival earlier this year.
Sourcing the troupe’s costumes and constructing the set of the play only started two months ago, said Rithyravuth, a few days after he selected the play’s 21 person cast from students at the Mozart Music Centre.
Other cast members were recruited from actors training at the Royal University of Fine Arts, he added.
Rithyravuth explained that he wants to keep the Piano Peanor team together and is searching for new ideas for the group to perform.
After graduating high school in 1985, Rithyravuth won a scholarship to study music in Russia.
Returning to Cambodia in 2000, after a 15 year teaching career spent overseas, Rithyravuth founded the Mozart Music Centre.
Held annually since 2007, the Lakhoan theatre festival is funded by the Institute Francais and aims to showcase new interpretations of traditional Khmer theatre, dance and music.