Phare, The Cambodian Circus – Transforming the lives of Cambodian Youth
In a rural Cambodian village a disfigured young man is rejected and ridiculed. He wonders why he is cursed in this way and seeks answers and help from the gods. They answer his prayers by transforming him into a beautiful woman who attracts the attention and desire of the village men. But they quickly discover there’s something evil behind the beauty.
Based on traditional Cambodian folktales, Sokrias (Eclipse) is a story of rejection, revenge, spirit possession and eventual forgiveness by the Phare Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap. After a day of tour in the sticky heat, all I wanted to do is to lie flat on my bed with a glass of wine. But when I knew that we were going to Phare, The Cambodian Circus, I was very excited!
All performers in Phare The Cambodian Circus learn their skills through Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an Association providing arts education in Battambang, Cambodia. Young people from the streets, orphanages and struggling families in the community come to PPS to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.
PPS formed 20 years ago by 9 children and their art teacher when they returned home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. As survivors of the war, empowered by the creative self-expression learned through their art-making, the group wanted to share this gift of the arts with the underprivileged children of Battambang.
They founded an art school and a public school quickly followed to offer free education. A music school and theatre school were next, and finally, the circus school. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools.
Phare, The Cambodian Circus, is more than just a circus. No, there is no elephant nor monkey in the circus. Instead, through theater, music, dance and modern circus arts, Phare aims to tell uniquely Cambodian stories. I really love the energy and talent of the young circus artists. They are accomplished in acrobatics, contortion, aerial ballet, balancing, tightrope walking, fire dancing, vaulting, juggling, music, dance, drama, mime and comedy.
Srey Leak is one of two female performers in Eclipse. She does contortion, handstand and hand to hand to in the show. Srey Leak grew up in Battambang and has been with Phare for 12 years. She came from a poor family and sold cakes with her mother and sister before joining the circus.
A teacher from Phare Ponleu Selpak came to talk to her one day and asked her to go study at the school. At first, her mom wasn’t happy because she needed her to help sell cakes to make money. So Srey will work at home in the morning, and go to school in the afternoon.
In between acts, they do a spirited, high-energy dance to the upbeat rhythms of the traditional xylophone, guitar and drums. It’s an hour of uplifting fun that is so contagious. Phare The Cambodian Circus offers these students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage. Money that will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect and freedom.
From March to October, Phare Cambodian Circus has daily performances at 8pm. From November to February, their daily performances start at 8.15pm, with performances on Monday, Thursday & Saturday at 6pm. At Phare Cafe, they also offer delicious 3 course set dinner menus for dining before or after the show. Blue Pumpkin store is available too. Here are the prices.
Preferred Seating (Seat A) :
Adult (age 12+) : $35 / Children $18 (5 to 11)
Reserved seating, front 3 rows of the middle section, a bottle of cool water & a special gift from the Phare Boutique
Open Seating (Seat B):
Adult (age 12+) $18 / Children (age 5 to 11) $10
Open Seating. Please come early for the best seats.
Under 5 years : free
Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Address: Comaille Road, Siem Reap (behind Angkor National Museum – in front of Angkor Century Hotel)
Tel: +855 (0) 15 499 480 / +855 (0) 92 225 320