Nov 16 2011
Consider this a strong recommendation to take advantage of an opportunity to enjoy a special performance of one of Cambodia’s ancient art forms: shadow puppet theatre. The Angkor Hospital for Children is hosting a performance staged with support from Cambodian Living Arts on Monday November 22. The performance will take place at the circular drive in front of the hospital, and starts at 19:15, but get there early to make sure you get a good view.
The puppet theatre used to be a sacred ritual, used only for the special occasions such as the Khmer New Year, the King’s birthday, or the veneration of a famous person. But war and conflict took their toll, and the practice fell out of use. Recent efforts to revive it are ongoing, and Cambodian Living Arts, which is behind this evening’s performance in Siem Reap, have been greatly responsible for its resurgence. In 2005, UNESCO listed Cambodian shadow puppet theatre under the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Having evolved beyond its ritualistic role, the performance of shadow puppet theatre has grown into an art form that is much more accessible. Each performance is a dramatic combination of puppetry, music, dance, song, and narration which, in full, could take several days requiring 160 puppets to complete. We’re guessing that Cambodian Living Arts will let you go before then.
In shadow puppet theatre, the characters, some two metres tall, are carved out of stretches of cow-hide, painted and then attached to sticks so that they can be manipulated. With a large fire behind them, the dancers cast their and the puppets’ shadows on to a white sheet and, accompanied by music from a traditional pin pet orchestra, recount tales of trust, love, loyalty and betrayal from the Reamker, an adaptation of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, modified for Buddhist sensibilities.
Monday night’s performance is part of the Angkor Hospital for Children’s ongoing fund-raising strategy which focuses a great deal on the arts. The show is spectacular — don’t miss it if you are here.
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