Siem Reap’s Fabulous Phare

Peter Olszewski No Comments Share:
Phare’s big top in Siem Reap. Peter Phoeng

With only a month to prepare, the iconic Phare Cambodian Circus will soon embark on a whirlwind tour of Australia in a show celebrating the Kingdom’s traditional heritage.
 
The Phare Cambodian Circus is about to turn things upside-down down under with its premiere Australian performance scheduled for the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide from September 27 through to October 2.
 
The Aussies are thrilled about the circus coming to town, billing it as “High energy, adrenaline-pumping action: Phare is a wild ride into the unknown,” and adding, “This special presentation for OzAsia Festival will showcase some of the company’s most thrilling, edge-of-your-seat acts alongside hilarious clown routines and playful audience engagement.”
 
Performers and staff at circus headquarters in Siem Reap are also excited about the impending Aussie tour and have been undergoing a series of grueling dress rehearsals in preparation.
 
In fact, gearing up for the Australian premiere has been a whirlwind as the deal to perform at the OzAsia Festival was only first discussed less than a month ago in Malaysia.
 
Phare’s CEO Dara Huot participated in the Borak Arts Series, a regional arts conference running from August 26-28 in Penang, Malaysia, as part of the George Town Festival.
 
The series enabled performance and arts personnel to build networks and seek performing opportunities. During the conference there was a one-on-one meeting session with festival directors, venue programmers and performing arts presenters, and that’s where the connection was first made.
 
“That’s when we met the festival director of OZAsia festival,” Dara said.
 
It’s been full-tilt go since then and Dara said a performance has been specially crafted for the OzAsia festival.
 
“It’s a fun family oriented performance that presents Cambodia in a youthful, hopeful and positive image,” he said.
 
“It is set in a community of villagers living in the city of Angkor. Phare performers use theater, dance, music and breathtaking circus acts to portray the daily life of Cambodians, the funny villagers, the Cambodian children playing games, the mythological characters such as Apsaras from the temple’s bas-relief coming to life to present the audience in Australia with a taste of Cambodian arts culture. 
 

Ratha Nget flips through the air in one of Phare’s promotional photoshoots. Aaron Santos 
 

Choub & Nov perform in front of  (from left to right) Veasna Khuon, Sopheap Cheat, Chanta Sim, Phearum Pai  , Sopheap Horn, Ratha Bo, Sombat Mony, Samdy San. Peter Phoeng 
 
“The young, funny and hopeful performers celebrate their cultural heritage and identity and are looking forward to the positive steps that the young people in Cambodia are making.” 
 
Since its humble beginnings in February 2013 in a big top on rented land in downtown Siem Reap, Phare has carved out an international reputation and its performers have become seasoned global travellers.
 
A contingent from the circus now tours western Europe twice annually as part of the school curriculum in countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Germany.
 
In Asia the circus has traveled to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Bangladesh, it even recently went to Rwanda, performing at a festival in a refugee camp.
 
Performers toured the US for the first time in 2015, playing in four states, and will return again this month. And of course September will also mark their debut in Australia.
 
Circus CEO Dara places great importance on the troupe’s international presence and regards the performers as true ambassadors for their country.
“Phare’s young performers travel the world to perform, inspire and learn and come back to inspire other young Cambodians,” he said.

Kanha Choub (Left) and Sreyleak Nov show off their flexibility. Phare, The Cambodian Circus
 

Performers Sreyleak Nov, Kanha Chuob and Robit Pen practice during a dress rehearsal.  Phare,
The Cambodian Circus
 
“They are the cultural ambassadors of Cambodia. They make people around the world connect with Cambodia in a positive way. We at Phare are proud of the young artists’ triumph over the adversities of their lives, and their contribution to Cambodia’s image and economy. 
 
“We are privileged to have enabled these young people to have such opportunities.”
 

Sothea Nem provides support for Samnang Heng during rehearsal. Phare, The Cambodian Circus

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