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

  • Guards protest dismissals, reject claims of sharing naked photos of child

    Some 20 former security guards at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh protested on Tuesday against their dismissal. They accused their employers of falsely claiming they had viewed and shared child pornography from their mobile phones as grounds for their termination. In total, 32 personnel were dismissed

  • We’re going to Wisney World!

    More than 6,000 mostly Chinese attendees witnessed the inauguration ceremony of a $1 billion Sihanoukville resort project called Wisney World in the capital on Wednesday. The event on Koh Pich, attended by several senior Cambodian government officials, is a joint venture between China’s AMC International and

  • Funcinpec urges probe into deadly Preah Sihanouk accident

    THE Funcinpec party has urged the government, especially the Ministry of Interior, to investigate the traffic accident in Preah Sihanouk province which left Prince Norodom Ranariddh badly injured and his wife Ouk Phalla dead. Funcinpec Vice President You Hokry told reporters at Botum Votey pagoda,

  • Gov’t continues China tilt as ties with the US slide on ‘interference’ in Kingdom’s internal affairs

    CHINA has granted some $131 million in aid to the Cambodian military. It comes as yet another sign that the Kingdom is strengthening strategic ties with its Asian neighbour to counter increasingly cold relations with the United States. The aid was announced as part of a