Timothy Tye's Travel Encyclopedia
Sbaek Thom Cambodian Shadow Puppet



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Sbaek Thom Cambodian Shadow Puppet is one of the performing arts staged duringthe 2012 George Town Festival on 7 July, 2012. It was held from 9:50 pm to 10:45 pm at the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, and formed one of the highlights of the 4th anniversary celebrations of the inscription of George Town World Heritage Site.

Unlike the Kelantan wayang kulit, the Sbaek Thom is performed by not one tuk dayang, or puppeteer, but an troupe of 16 performers. The "puppets" are large screens made of hide, much bigger than those of the wayang kulit.

Sbaek Thom Cambodian Shadow Puppet Performance (7 July, 2012)


Another major difference to wayang kulit is that the performance stand in front of the screen, on the same side as the audience, and not behind the screen. The illumination is provided by an open fire. Instead of shadows projecting on the screen, the audience see the profile of the puppets. So, technically, this is not a shadow puppet show, but rather a silhouette puppet show.

The Sbaek Thom troupe was founded by the monks at the Saytwo Refugee Camp. When peace returned to Cambodia, the monks reestablished themselves at Wat Rajabo in Siem Reap.

Sbaek Thom is technically a silhouette puppet show (7 July, 2012)


During the George Town celebrations, the troupe staged a performance based on Sau Neakabas, the third episode of the Reamker, as the Ramayana is known in Khmer. The instruments in the traditional orchestra includes the xylophone, barrel drum, oboe and cymbals. There are two narrators, one speaking in Khmer and another in English, to help the audience follow the play.

Narrators at the Sbaek Thom performance (7 July, 2012)


The audience crowding around to watch the Sbaek Thom performance (7 July, 2012)


Intricate design of the Sbaek Thom puppet (7 July, 2012)


Screen for the Sbaek Thom shadow puppet performance erected at Cannon Square (7 July, 2012)

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