Saturday, September 12, 2009

One of the lucky ones

One of the two Moni Mekhala's receives plaudits from her fans at the end of the show
Well, I was one of the lucky ones to get into watch the Khmer Arts Ensemble perform at Chenla Theatre Friday night, but many more went away very disappointed. The KAE troupe did a marvellous job onstage with a stunning classical performance but offstage, especially the scenes in front of the theatre, were embarrasing for the organisers, the French Cultural Center (CCF). Intent on giving everyone a chance to see the Lakhaon Festival, free of charge at Chenla all week, they adopted a first come, first served policy, which was quite simply disastrous. Khmers don't know how to queue at the best of times, but as soon as there was a whiff of the doors opening, bodies just piled forward leaving those in the queue, having patiently waited their turn for up to 2 hours, without a hope in hell of getting into see the show. The same had happened last Monday, when I was one of those standing in the queue, so clearly the organisers had not learnt their lesson or addressed the problem. The crowd-control security were an absolute joke and should never be employed by anyone ever again. In the theatre the organisers were proudly announcing how many people had been through the doors all week, conveniently forgetting to mention the hundreds who were turned away, fuming with how badly organised the events were. It's a great idea to provide these cultural activities free to all but to prevent the appalling scenes witnessed Monday and Friday (I didn't go any other night but heard it was a similar story all week) the CCF need to clearly re-think their ticketing policy. I suggest they take a leaf out of the Amrita way of organising their events where they make tickets available beforehand to interested parties and avoid the free-for-all that ensued Monday and Friday. Rant over.
Now back to the successful part of the evening, the wonderful performance from the KAE company. The story of Ream Eyso (the baddie) and Moni Mekhala (the goodytwoshoes) is one of the Khmer classics and with her own interpretation, KAE founder Sophiline Cheam Shapiro brought the stage to life with splashes of colour and outstanding co-ordination amongst her onstage team. It looked great in every respect, sounded wonderful as well and the audience responded accordingly with copious applause throughout. With Van Molyvann and Chheng Phon as the special guests it was a fitting spectacle and a reminder that hours of practice does indeed make perfect. If you get the opportunity to see the KAE in action, grab it with both hands. I was fortunate to see them rehearsing the piece on Saturday at their Takhmau headquarters but the onstage show was infinitely better. My grateful thanks to Veasna for arranging for my invite and seat - I was so glad I wasn't one of the many disappointed trudging their way home. And it was great to see so many well-known dance faces including Belle and Sam Sathya in the audience.
Moni Mekhala in a scene from the beginning of the performance
The Khmer Arts Ensemble cast take their bow at the end of the show
Flowers were handed to the main performers, 2 Moni Mekhala's and 2 Ream Eyso's
The whole stage cast receive the applause of the packed house at Chenla

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