Socially Conscious Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap

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If you’re in Siem Reap no doubt you’ll already know all about Angkor Wat. You may also have done a heavy night out on Pub Street. But if you’re looking for something else, something entertaining, that gives something back to the community, look no further than Phare Cambodian Circus. Phare artists use drama, dance, live music and circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories from recent history, folklore or modern society.

Practical Info

Showtimes

The show is on every day at 8pm. The big top holds just over 300 people. The performance is suitable for everyone, kids included. They also have earlier 5pm shows on some days. Check the website for more details.

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You can buy tickets online from the Phare website. Prices start at $18 for adults. There are also different packages you can select. You can also get tickets from a lot of travel agencies scattered round Siem Reap. The price might seem a little steep but the reviews really speak for themselves. It’s absolutely worth the money. There are different levels of seating, A (preferred reserved), B (preferred open) and C (open seating). We opted for C being on a budget. We definitely didn’t feel like we missed out on anything being on the side rather than the front. But it’s up to you and your budget!

 

How to get there?

Phare Circus has a big top located only about 2km from the central Siem Reap town. You can get a tuk tuk easily, but we chose to walk. It really didn’t take us long and we used Maps.me to navigate. You can find Phare on maps.me by searching it and you can get a route straight there with the route function.

Make sure you bring torches or have a charged phone with a torch if you decide to walk. It will be dark and there aren’t many street lamps along the roads. It also means that cars will be able to spot you if you have a light.

How long is the show?

The show we saw lasted just over an hour. Make sure you have water with you as it can get quite sweaty inside the big top. If you arrive early enough you might be able to nab one of the hand fans they were handing out to people so they could stay cool. Make sure you arrive on time. Because of the nature of the performance with the artists moving around the whole tent they won’t necessarily let you in if you’re late as you could spoil the performance. Arrive early to find a good seat, get some snacks and do some people watching before the performance starts.cambodian circus

Food & drink

Phare sell popcorn, beers, soft drinks water and even proper meals outside the big top that you can take inside. If you arrive early you can eat outside in the seating area. The whole area is really pretty decorated with lanterns and lights. All the staff are really friendly and bubbly and they also have a boutique that sells Cambodian crafts. I was particularly tempted by some mugs (my obsession) but couldn’t quite figure out how I’d carry it around with me sadly.

The Performance

This was one of the best circuses I’ve seen. I’ve seen something quite similar from a Welsh company that also combines theatre, dance, live music and circus skills. This was equally as fabulous. From the moment the performance began the whole audience were captivated. The sense of community and the friendship between the artists was evident throughout the performance, just before the show began they huddled up and had a pep talk.

The joy and the passion from all the artists was particularly inspiring. They just looked like they were having so much fun and it made everyone else feel the same. The stunts were incredible and yes I was that person constantly muttering “oh my god” “woah look at that” “that’s insane”. I’m surprised I didn’t get an elbow in the ribs from Ben but he was just as amazed. He can actually be quite hard to impress with certain artistic performances but this time even he was blown away.

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“Same Same but Different”

What was really interesting was the theme of the show we saw which was called “Same Same but Different”. The performance used everyday life in Cambodia to showcase their art. From tourists and Cambodian locals catching a boat and the difference between them, to the loud larger than life expats that invade the town and even a touching contortion piece about a mother and daughter and the difficulties the mother has accepting her daughter is growing up and become westernised in denim hot pants and trainers.

The parts about the expats really did make us laugh especially as there were definitely some in the audience! But nothing is done maliciously, everything is in good fun with a sense of humour and it’s a way for the Cambodians to embrace that side of their city. You really feel like you understand a bit more about the life here even if it is just an act. The performers are all Cambodian and this is their culture.

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After the show

After the show you have the chance to donate more to their cause and to meet the cast. By then Ben was starting to melt so we didn’t stay long but had a quick picture with some of the performers. Most of the cast speak good English, French and of course Cambodian and they’re happy to talk about their involvement in the project.

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Socially Responsible Initiatives

Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia. As well as arts education programmes PPS students also benefit from a social support department which provides children with nutritious lunch, school supplies, stipends, and other forms of support.

Underneath this school in 2013 they created the Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) and in February of that year the first performance was put on in Siem Reap.

PPSE has 3 missions:

  1. Create meaningful employment opportunities for Cambodian artists
  2. Create financially sustainable social businesses that provide a reliable income streams for Phare Ponleu Selpak
  3. Revitalise the arts sector in Cambodia and promote Cambodian art locally and internationally

Eco-Tourism

Phare also promote eco-tourism values. They have water refill stations at the circus, avoid using energy heavy air con units in the big top and make planters out of old plastic bottles.

Watch the video below to find out more about the guest experience at Phare Circus and get more information on their website.

 

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