Sovanna Phum theatre CAMBODIA UNCOVERED

Traditional Khmer Shadow Puppet Show


See and hear Khmer culture and music

The Khmer Rouge killed many artists, dancers and musicians however there has been a resurgence of traditional arts in recent years.  This resurgence includes the use of traditional shadow puppets which are made from cowhide.  The leather is cured and stretched for a couple of weeks before being dyed with natural dye.  The leather is then cut with a knife to form the puppet.  A chisel and hammer may be used for the finer details
Puppet theatre takes two different forms – Sbeik thom (big skin) traditionally tells the story of the Ramayana.  These puppets are large (up to 2 m) and have no moving parts.  Sbeik touch (Small skin) are usually much smaller and they have moving parts.  They often tell stories about every day life and love.  In recent years, various organisations have employed shadow puppet troupes to perform health education shows such as prevention of HIV or malaria.  One is unlikely however to see these performances unless in a village at the time of the performance
Whichever puppet show you are lucky to see, they are truly delightful and well worth the effort
In Phnom Penh, a local theatre group – Sovanna Phum performs every Friday and Saturday night.  Shadow puppets are often included in their performances with traditional music accompaniment.  Traditional instruments include the long necked traditional guitar (Chha-Pai Dongveng), drums, percussion, wooden xylophone (Ro-niet) and the Khmer flute (Sro-lai)
Performances can also include classical Khmer dancing as well as circus acts which are as delightful as the puppets
For those in Phnom Penh on Friday or Saturday night, Sovanna Phum is a must see
Anyone falling in love with the puppets can purchase them from the Theatre as they look terrific hanging on a wall with light shone behind them.  Other items such as masks, drums, music CDs and postcards are also on sale at the theatre

If you are unable to be in Phnom Penh at these times, there are a few places in Siem Reap where you can also see Khmer shadow puppets and classical dancing


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