Saturday, November 3, 2012

Yike tells a story

The main characters, Mak Therng and his wife Pangkiya
Cambodians love stories, especially traditional ones that have a meaning today. Take Mak Therng, the new Yike opera show presented for the first time last night at the National Museum by the youngsters from Cambodian Living Arts. Good versus evil, rich against poor, the search for fairness and justice. All told using the Khmer story-telling musical theater style called Lakhaon Yike. Not usually seen at all by foreign visitors, CLA have decided to made it one of their three performance shows that they will rotate every week, alongwith the Children of Bassac and another new performance, Passage of Life theater. The season of shows is called Plae Pakaa (the idea is of coming to fruition). The Bassac show, which was cancelled on Thursday because of a thunderstorm - the shows are in the open-air at the Museum on a specially-made stage and seating area - is a mix of classical and folk dance and is immediately appealing to all, foreign and local guests alike. Yike is altogether different, much slower, concentrating on the story, the characters, even facial expressions and of course, the moral of the story. I must say the acting by the young performers was pretty good, in an exaggerated way of course, real tears were spilled and it does an excellent job of bringing an otherwise unseen performance style to a wider audience. The origins of Yike are thought to come from the Cham ethnic group but its past is undocumented. Today the shows are accompanied by drums and string instruments, the characters dress up in colourful costumes and though the spoken language and singing is in Khmer, CLA have added a screen with translations of the words into English - a very useful addition to help with understanding the story. I have seen the Bassac show a few times and would recommend it unreservedly, as for Yike, it too gives a window into a different style of traditional Cambodian story-telling and for that reason, and the quality of the performance, is also well worth going to see. Tickets cost $10 and the shows begin at 7pm sharpish for an hour, six nights a week, except Sunday. The aim for CLA is to raise awareness of the arts as well as providing opportunities for their students to get regular jobs in the arts sector, which they hope Plae Pakaa will achieve. One small suggestion, it would be a nice gesture if some of the lead characters remained on stage at the end, to allow a few photographs for the visitors. It is afterall, a show aimed primarily at international tourists. Oh, and if it looks like rain, take an umbrella.
The drum of truth carried by Pangkiya and Mak Therng

The climax of the story of Mak Therng

The performers express their thanks to the audience

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