Royal University of Fine Arts – Theatre Department
The Shadow Theatre is a sacred art form in Cambodia. Large, highly detailed leather puppets are placed behind a white screen and their movements are highlighted by shadow. It's one of the oldest traditional forms of theater in Cambodia; it can be traced back to the Angkor period as seen on temple inscriptions. The puppets are not articulated, they are cut in great detail in buffalo skin. The artist who makes the puppets has to wear white clothes when he cuts the leather, and he has to finish his work in one day, not more..
Even after the show, the ritual continues: the puppets, which are not used for the show, are conserved in a particularly manufactured cupboard, which always needs to be placed facing the sunrise. AN Chheaheng, KEO Dorivan, SINN Samy and POK Sarann are the four Cambodian puppeteers, who take part in the "Puppets Beyond Borders" project. They have all studied puppetry at the Theatre Department of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, where they learned this century-old tradition of Shadow Theatre from its Masters. Their work represents the Cambodian puppets art at its best.
A homeless man asks for hospitality to a peasant that agrees to his request. As a guest in the home unknown to him, he carefully observes every detail inside. When gently asked by his host to leave, he refuses and the two bear their dispute before the village chief, who asks whom the home belongs to. The unwelcomed guest is able to describe every detail of the house, while the real owner only has a very loose knowledge of his home, as details have become so ordinary and familiar to him. The village chief is convinced by the stranger, but the owner brings case before the king..
Same questions, same answers. But the king asks one last question: How many columns are in the house? The owner is the only one to know, because when he built the house with his own hands, he had to carefully plant each stilt into the damp ground..
The King gives back the house to its true owner, putting the homeless man in jail...
In Phnom Penh before the performance there was a big shadow performance: Ponhakay