A must-see attraction for traveller to Cambodia is the famous Phare Circus in Siem Reap. For most travelers, the only thing to see in Siem Reap is the amazing Angkor Wat Temple Complex, but there is more to this colourful town than just the temples! Situated in the heart of Siem Reap under the ‘Red Big Top,’ Phare, the Cambodia Circus performers use theatre, dance, acrobatics, contortions, juggling and other modern circus arts, accompanied by high-energy music played on modern as well as traditional Cambodia instruments, to tell uniquely Cambodian stories that reflect their history, their culture and the societal challenges of the country.
More than simply a circus, not only is the Phare Circus a fascinating evening of entertainment, it also plays a key educational and trans-formative role in Cambodian society. Phare artists are students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak’s vocational training centre in Battambang. The association was formed 20 years ago by 8 young men coming home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime ended. They were greatly helped by art therapy and wanted to share their new skills among the poor, socially deprived and troubled youngsters of the region. They founded an art school and a public school to offer free education. A music school and theater school were next, and finally, for the kids who wanted more, the circus school. Today more than 1200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools. The circus offers the students and graduates a place to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage – money that will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect, freedom and a promising future. Witnessing the circus here is a truly unique Cambodian travel experience fusing storytelling and high-energy acrobatics with the opportunity to help vulnerable youth reach their full potential.
The performances are nightly at 8pm with, on average, 10 circus artists and 4 musicians per show. Performances and artists vary throughout the year with each show having a central powerful theme such as discrimination, the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, common fears & anxieties people face and even male/female relationships. The ‘Big Top’is an intimate venue with just over 300 seats and the emotion, energy and enthusiasm of the artists resonates throughout. There is a small gift shop and outdoor restaurant with a good selection of western and Cambodia food choices for guests to have a complete Phare Circus experience. For an amazing evening of entertainment, be sure to include Phare, The Cambodian Circus in any trip to Cambodia and Siem Reap.
The above was written by Barbara Norton, Goway Travel’s manager of Groups and Special Events.