Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Epic Arts most recent production Come Back Brighter a ‘cultural coup’



Epic Arts most recent production Come Back Brighter a ‘cultural coup’

Epic Arts is an NGO that uses the arts as a way to help people of all abilities into Cambodian society. Photo supplied
Epic Arts is an NGO that uses the arts as a way to help people of all abilities into Cambodian society. Photo supplied

Epic Arts most recent production Come Back Brighter a ‘cultural coup’

The most recent production from the folks at Kampot’s Epic Arts, Come Back Brighter, is nothing short of an astounding and moving experience for the viewer. With severely limited funding, they have pulled off a “cultural coup”.

My bias these days, by the way, is to avoid all theatre and dance events – I prefer live music and film – but wanting to support Epic, I recently decided to cough up the dosh and go along. And that was the best money I’ve spent in a long time.

Yes, indeed.

To begin with, the venue is undeniably gorgeous and saturated in history. The play takes place in an elegantly decaying small theatre where films and various cultural events were staged for many decades.

There is powerful “juju” in that place – one can feel the visceral presence of “things that once happened there”.

Not wanting to give much of the narrative away, let me just say that there is a logical timeline from the past to the present, as one would expect. This strategy works, and the build-up is tense and fraught with pitched emotion.

The exception is a potent short film that is shown early on about the couple that has owned and run the theatre from the beginning, in the 1960s.

Here is where the first of my rivulets of tears began to flow. The mixture of the unmitigated joy of the “bright and shiny” pop period of Sihanouk’s ’60s contrasting with the devastating pathos of the Khmer Rouge period was too much for me to remain unaffected.

This familiar story was told through the “vehicle” of this tiny local Kampot theatre, which is so emblematic of many other small-town theatres throughout Cambodia at that time. 

The only weak chapter of the show was the interpretation of the tragic KR “Year Zero”. I believe that it’s nearly impossible to adequately express the darkness and destruction of what the severely misguided and murderous KR did to Cambodian society, particularly to the cultural arts.

The choreography was the definition of brilliant, especially considering the available resources. The deaf dancers were impressive, as none of them were professionally trained.

One of the show’s standouts was the lead female traditional dancer during the presentation of a classic Khmer song accompanied by a live acoustic band – she was absolute “perfection in motion”.

The male dancer in the wheelchair was also exceptional. That man could, seemingly, do anything, sitting in, and away, from that chair – “freedom of movement” personified. That an extraordinary tour de force took place that evening is not an exaggeration here.

Come Back Brighter rises from the base of a modest and humble production to, surprisingly, an event of high import and epic proportions. In short, Epic Arts is epic.  Come Back Brighter is on every Friday night at 7:30pm until May 6.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants