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Sbek performance or Shadow Theater

Sbeks, meaning leather in Khmer, are cut-out cowhide silhouettes or figures used as props.

It is a sacred form of performing art associated with rites of invocation and prayers. Formerly, it was performed during religious ceremonies, coronations, royal ceremonies, consecration of new Buddha statues, funerals, and village ceremonies. Today it is extended to festivals, national days like
the National Cultural Day and tourist´s entertainment.

There are 3 different forms of Shadow Theater in Cambodia:

  • Sbek Thom, large leather cut-outs
  • Sbeck Touch, small puppet play
  • Sbek Por, painted leather cut-outs characters

Sbek Thom, was proclaimed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 2005, and featured on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as of 2009.

Artisan draws the desired figure on the tanned hide, then cuts it out and paints it before attaching it to two bamboo sticks which enable
the dancer to control the puppet.

The performances traditionally take place at night in the open air beside a rice-field or pagoda. A large white backdrop is held between
two tall bamboo screens in front of a large fire or, nowadays, projectors. The shadow of the puppet’s silhouette is projected onto this white screen. The animator brings the puppet to life with precise and specific dance steps that produce a range of movements. The performance is accompanied by an orchestra and two narrators.

In Roluos area, in front of Preah Ko temple, you can see production of traditional puppets, buy it and even assist to performances.

Great stories and insights about Cambodia’s history and culture.

The traditional art of shadow puppetry is being revived in a fascinating and charming presentation with contemporary integrations.
Performances and storytelling give you a perception about the history, cultures and issues that affect Cambodia.
Bambu Stage is a platform for performing arts in Cambodia—a performance venue with daily shows, a workshop space for Cambodian puppeteers, and a gathering space for artists and art lovers. It is providing career opportunities for young Cambodians.

Show at 7pm each Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
Bamboo Street, Siem Reap
+855 (0)97 726 111 0
Tickets: $18, $28, $38

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