Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Puppetry excellence

Two of the shadow puppet characters that courted the most laughter from the watching children
The questionnaire that I completed at the end of my 4-day Mekong Discovery Trail fam trip asked me for the highlight of my tour. Without hesitation I scribbled down, shadow puppets at Wat Roka Kandal in Kratie. Not only is the venue pretty spectacular, a stone's throw from the Mekong River and on the steps of the renovated early 19th century vihear, but the quality of the performance was exceptional when you consider the artists had received only one and a half month's training before this inaugural show. With more practice and support from the professionals at Sovanna Phum, the talented girls, who provide most of the puppetry during the hour long performance, will be sensational. The musicians and the voice-overs all added to a great show and it was capped off by what seemed to be the whole village turning out for the floodlit event too, with the younger children laughing and screaming at the puppets' funny antics, as they inched ever closer to the stage. Whilst our group occupied two rows of seats near the front, hordes of villagers stood behind us enjoying it as much as we did. The shadow puppet story focused on the princess and the crocodile, which is the tale that is linked to the 100-pillar pagoda at Wat Sasar Muoy Roy, 35kms north along the Mekong at Sambor, so it was educational for everyone too. In the future, they want to offer a dinner and puppet show double-bill that will add a 'must-see' attraction in the Kratie area, which pretty much closes down for the night when the sun sets just after 6pm. It certainly gets the thumbs up from me. After the show ended, I met with the artists to thank them for the excellent entertainment they'd provided and they were simply adorable. They gave me two leather puppets to keep and then took turns to practice their faltering English with the usual array of questions that crop up on such occasions, ie. age, nationality, job, marital status, etc. In return, they rattled off their names and without exception they all looked about sixteen years old but I'm sure they were older. One girl said "I love you like my father" which made me feel very humble and pretty ancient at the same time! If you get the opportunity to see the shadow puppets at Wat Roka Kandal, make sure you grab it with both hands. More from my April visit to Wat Roka Kandal here.
Some of the children waiting expectantly for the show to begin
The musicians and singers open up the performance
A brother and sister watch the performance
The children inch ever closer to the main stage at Wat Roka Kandal
The light shines on the righteous; well on this occasion, two of the artists with yours truly, after their splendid performance

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