Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Theater raises the issue

Theater raises the issue

Theater raises the issue

OU RANG OV, Kampong Cham - Tackling serious social issues like domestic violence

is not the usual aim of Ayai performances. The traditional Khmer theater usually

provides light stories with music, comedy and improvised banter.

However, a new Ayai tour telling of one woman's escape from her abusive husband is

changing that. And judging by the large, enthusiastic crowd on the Feb 15 opening,

audiences are receptive to the message. "Come down here!... I want to fight

you, you are a bad man," shouted one teenage boy, incensed by a scene of the

husband hitting his wife with a stick.

The tour organizers - the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Project Against Domestic

Violence (PADV) - claimed that 30,000 were attending the performances each night.

Crowd members said they were drawn by the fame of actor/playwright Prom Manh, but

most also knew the play's theme.

"We have been delighted by the response," said Louisa Norman, a PADV technical

adviser. "It has been remarkable watching whole communities responding, laughing

and crying along with the story."

A public awareness team from PADV and Women's Affairs is also touring, contacting

NGOs and officials for support during each performance. Before the show, a team member

speaks about domestic violence and where to find local help.

Drawing on the improvisational tradition of Ayai, the outcome of the play is variable.

The heroine will get away from her abusive husband each time, but the action she

takes will be dependent on the real-life services in the area.

"I was happy to write this kind of story [for PADV] in order to stop the violence

that we have a lot of in Cambodia," Prom Manh told the Post. "Anger causes

damage... stop the anger," he sang onstage.

PADV research indicates that one in six women is subject to domestic violence here,

and that culturally, wife-beating is often viewed as a normal family problem, not

to be interfered with or talked about.

The theater tour aims to challenge that mindset. "We want to tell the audience

to wake up, not just to keep quiet. We want them to discuss domestic violence openly,"

said actress You Sok Sothea, who plays the battered wife.

The tour is visiting villages in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong

Thom, with a possible final show in Phnom Penh on March 29.

The Women's Media Center plans to base a TV production on the play and is also making

a documentary about domestic violence, including reactions to the play from abused

women, local authorities and the general public. The films - which will be screened

nationally and internationally later in the year - and the tour are being funded

by the Asia Foundation.

One elderly theatergoer, who acknowledged spousal abuse was a problem in his village,

thought the play would decrease violence "by about 80 percent". Noting

the dastardly husband got arrested in the end, he said: "After [wife-beaters]

watch that play, they will be thinking about what could happen to them."

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the