Cambodian Circus

Perfect end to a perfect day?  What else would you do after seeing the sun rise over Angkor Wat and whizzing through the tropical jungle of the rainforest on a sequence of zip wires?  Circus, of course circus!


So, the evening entertainment of choice for four of us from the Intrepid group was to depart squished in a tuk tuk to be whisked off to see the Cambodian Circus.  $20 covered a non-reserved seat ($18) and $1 each way (per person) to and from the circus venue.

It was great fun.  Our tuk tuk driver from the hotel deposited us at the circus venue which was very much more organised than expected.  We were greeted by an endless sequence of immaculately turned out staff.  YOu enter the venue via some exquisitely made craft items which are made by local people.

I hadn’t realised on booking, but The Cambodian Circus is actually a project  with a social mission.  Artists who train are children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Very disadvantaged, street children.  The school has grown to over 1200 students and includes circus, dance, theatre, music and a visual arts programme.

It was a slick operation.  There was seating outside the circus tent, and you could get drinks and refreshments.  Some of us queued to get in (the tent didn’t open until 7.30 for an 8.00 p.m. start), whilst others went in search of refreshments. In an act of logistical genius, returning with a photo on their phone of cocktail options.  I think we all had ‘lemon grass cocktails’ which contained non-specific alcohol.  It was $3.50, so amongst more expensive of purchases.  Sorry to say it, but served in a plastic mug with lots of ice, it really tasted to me of a kind of alcoholic lemsip.  Unfortunately, I really hate lemsip.  Oh well.

Just after 7.30 the flaps opened and we were ushered into a smallish, but tall, circus tent.  Rows of wooden seats surrounded two-thirds of the space.  Reserved seats had the best views as action was focused to the front, with occasional use of a shadow screen at the back of the performance space.  We managed to secure some seats pretty much adjacent to the good ones and got a good view.  However, it was a lively enough performance I don’t think it would matter too much where you sat.  On entering the tent we were each given a fan to wave as the heat did build up, but all part of the occasion.

The performance itself is short and snappy.  An hour of acrobatics, dance and mime by exuberant performers who rocket around the stage like a ball of muscle. It was really great, well worth the money.  You are allowed to take photos as long as you don’t use a flash.  I was game to have a go, but they don’t really do it justice. I am hoping to scrounge better photos from my traveling companions at some point.  In the interim I’ll put a few below by way of generating atmosphere.  Think high energy, physical theatre.  Fire juggling; balancing; diablo; acrobatics; tumbling; balancing and even a few jumping onto see saws to catapult fellow performers in the air.  One of the most extraordinary sights though was an acrobat who sort of curled himself skywards on two pieces of parallel ribbon.  It was like those children’s toys you used to get made of two sticks which you squeeze together to make a wooden figure magically climb skyward.  I never knew it was actually doable.  Well I say that, not by mere mortals clearly, but no problem for this troupe.

The story?  Well irrelevant really, being just a vehicle round which to hang the circus skills.  There were some comic terms, the male performer rouged up, flirting with audience members.  High drama recreating street markets and cock fights.  Very imaginatively done.


The evening performance finished, there was a quick talk about the project, an appeal for donations and an opportunity to pose for photos with the cast.  It was all very joyous.

We were disgorged feeling very upbeat, into a fog of coaches and tuk tuk drivers.  Of course I got separated from the group and was perturbed by a persistent tuk tuk driver, who, to my mortification turned out to be our tuk tuk driver and not a tout at all.  In my defence, I had only seen the back of his head covered in a motor helmet on the way out.

Animated talk about how depressing American politics on the ride home.  It is really fun in a tuk tuk in the dark.  Great way to travel.  We were held up by some sort of incident at one point, but the delay didn’t bother us, though it may have frustrated our driver.  When we passed it, we discovered we were only round the corner from our hotel.  We could have walked it.  Oh well, tuk tuk ride was fun.

So I’ll keep this post uncharacteristically short but hopefully sweet.

Digested read, would recommend.  They do go off on tour.  They are not in the same league as Cirque to Soleil, but for the scale of their enterprise they definitely punch above their weight and the cause is indeed noble.   It stands up in its own right as a performance though.  You will be entertained!



One response to “Cambodian Circus

  1. Pingback: Dancing around history – Cambodian Living Arts, Phnom Penh | Cambodia Calling·

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