The Cambodian Circus or Phare in Khmer is a fascinating blend of traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion incredibly choreographed and performed through a story focusing on Cambodian lives, culture and society.
The Phare Cambodian Circus is an offshoot project by the Phare Ponleu Selpak Association which translates as “Brightness of the Arts”. The PPS Association is a Cambodian non-profit, non-governmental association founded in 1994 by eight young Cambodians who were ex-refugees in the area of Anchanh Village, Ochar Commune in Battambang Province.
The Circus performs every night in Siem Reap with shows starting at 8.00pm although it is recommended to arrive by 7:30 pm to get a decent seat. You can also dine before the performance at Phare Cafe which comes highly recommended. Adult tickets are $38, child tickets $18 and infants under 4 years get free admission.
Outlined below are some of the most popular shows you can go and see at the Phare Cambodian Circus. Please check the Phare website for the schedule of what shows are being performed during your visit.
In Cambodia, ghosts are a major part of the local culture and beliefs and certainly, most Cambodians, old or young, believe in the existence of ghosts. Preu is the story of a group of students who experience ghostly encounters during the night while sleeping. The students confront their fears and anxieties through a mix of theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, aerial acts and other circus skills.
Preu Circus show is performed by student artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic and Social Center. You can experience the Preu circus without fear, whether you believe in ghosts or not!
Crammed with Cambodian culture and popular beliefs, Sokrias is a tale about discrimination. A man, who is being persecuted because he is different prays for divine intervention. The gods answer his prayer and transform him into a beautiful woman.
After receiving lots of attention a mysterious plague begins to infect all the local villagers. The artists that perform the Sokrias circus show will amaze you with their energy, emotion and talent. By the end you feel elevated by this tale of spirit over adversity.
Sokha is the name of a child who is haunted by disturbing visions of terrible atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge. At her lowest point, experiencing the darkest fears of her consciousness, she discovers her inner strength and resilience to fight her demons.
As she transforms into an adult she realizes the way to reconstruct her country and culture is to use art to heal the scars that remain between the different generations.
The Sokha circus show uses complex visual art accompanied with traditional Cambodian music to show the audience the genuine suffering that affects post-war victims in the country. All this is done in a way that maintains empathy, optimism and belief in human spirit.
Sokha’s life that is depicted in this act of the show is very much based on real-life events. The 8 co-founders of the Cambodian Circus returned to Cambodia in 1994 after spending their childhood in refugee camps over the border in Thailand. At the refugee camp, they all received art therapy to overcome the trauma that they had experienced previously.
On their return to Cambodia, they opened an art and social centre in Battambang to help rebuild their community and help others from the very difficult social and economic conditions they were living in. Phare Circus is now internationally famous for the talent of its artists and quality of its productions.
Khmer Metal Circus
Khmer Metal circus is a story of nightlife, passion, love, heartbreak and tears interlaced with humour and empathy. This part of the show depicts urban life while the rock band provides a progressive, grungy soundtrack.
This show is set in a fashionable Phnom Penh bar, the main character who is a well-connected gangster called Bang Son who gets into trouble with his brother Chhaya, the bars security guard.
This show is a well crafted modern piece performed by talented Cambodians through the mediums of music, dance, acting and modern circus arts.
Phsong Preng Circus
The Phsong Preng or Adventure show tells the moving story of a young Cambodian boy who leaves his hometown in search of a better life. He escapes his home, where he is abused by his mother, and meets new friends while waiting for a taxi. When the taxi arrives, they all travel to Phnom Penh where they get to experience a darker side of life.
After an encounter with some thugs who leave him beaten up, he is saved by a chance meeting with a band of smart street kids who take him in as one of their own, helping him to build his confidence and be happy again. Enthused by his new friends and experiences, he finally decides he is ready to return home.
Phsong Preng is a modern Cambodian tale mixing theatre, music, dance and acrobatics, which carries you on an emotional journey through modern-day Cambodia.