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Siem Reap's mobile magician

Siem Reap's mobile magician


Photo by: Jason Leahey

Princhor dives through circle of knives.

MR Princhor, magician extraordinaire, looks surprisingly at ease for someone about to launch himself through a ring of sharpened knives. But this is business as usual for the prestidigitator, who has been entertaining audiences for three years with his special blend of acrobatics, sleights of hand and death-defying stunts.

He told the Post that the circle of knives, the most dangerous trick in his act, is not only a crowd pleaser but also his own favourite.  "When the people are happy, I am happy, too," he said.  "I don't worry about getting hurt anymore."

It wasn't always so.  A thick, raised scar runs across Princhor's right bicep, a painful reminder that his line of work is not for the faint of heart.  "I cut it open during a show," he said, "trying to make the circle a little smaller, a little better." 

His wife is anxious that he will injure himself again, but for Princhor, street performance is the only option.

And that's one more option than he had when growing up in Battambang.  "I was very poor.  Like this," he said, pointing to a young fan trying to sell him a drink.  "We fished, just tried to get by." 

Then he enrolled with Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organisation that gives orphaned and poor kids skills to become successful working artists, including circus performers. Princhor discovered he had a particular affinity for magic, and a career was born, with the entire Siem Reap province now his arena.

During his show, Princhor's moves are full of staccato energy as he turns blank paper into a fistful of money, swallows ping-pong balls before pulling them out of children's pockets and produces women's lingerie out of thin air. 

With the crackling strains of Macarena urging him onward, he leaps through the ring of knives no less than a dozen times.  His wardrobe consists of nothing but a pair of sparkling black jeans, and his compact, muscled body works up a sweat as he works the crowd, making his tattoos glisten.

Many of the tattoos, he admits, are drawn on with marker before the show, but the one that covers most of his chest is permanent.   "I believe in spirits," Princhor said, pointing to the large sword-swallowing figure just below his breastbone.  "This one is to protect me."

Because of the danger, Princhor does want his young son to follow in his footsteps.  But he has no intention of leaving magic behind.  "There's only one job I want," he says "I could be on TV.  I could perform for all of Cambodia."


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