A deeply personal documentary-style production which shares the stories of people affected by the Khmer Rouge.
Between one and two million Cambodians died from execution, torture, illness, or starvation during Pol Pot’s three-and-a-half-year rule (1975-1979). The regime targeted performing artists in particular because of their association with the court, and only 10 percent of them survived. These few survivors have spent the last two decades piecing together the remnants of their performance
Integrating traditional Cambodian dance and puppetry with multi-media, The Continuum: Beyond the Killing Fields Based on the life of seventy-five year old Em Theay, master classical dancer, the production celebrates the continuity of Cambodian dance and puppetry interwoven with new media. is a heart-rending and often harrowing theatre work of a memory which tore Cambodia apart.
Commonly known as the tenth dancer, the one who survived, Em Theay tells her own story as an artist who was persecuted in a time where nine out of ten artists were killed by Pol Pot in his fanatical attempt to set his country back to year zero. Surviving the scourge of the Khmer Rouge to live on, Em Theay has taught her skills to the national troupe and passed on her art form through generations.
“There were 300 musicians and dancers in the royal palace and only 30 came back. They survived by hiding their identities, telling Pol Pot’s people that they were seamstresses or pedicab drivers,” explains director Ong Keng Sen (Silver River, King Lear, Destinies of Flowers in the Mirror, Trojan Women)
Singaporean director and artistic director of TheatreWorks Keng Sen is known for his elaborate and risky performance concepts. His belief in the juxtaposition of different art forms and cultural styles has helped him create his own epic performance style of directing.
"When I was about to turn 30, I left Singapore to pursue post-graduate studies in performance at New York University. This changed my life forever. My work in the theatre began to focus on dialogue between cultures, producing many works which have been described as ‘intercultural’ journeys."
The Continuum features traditional Cambodian dance, music and shadow puppetry as well as documentary footage, all linked together by the storytelling of the Cambodian performers. The piece is a moving exploration of the ability of traditional art forms to speak to new realities. Continuum is part documentary and part experimental performance about Cambodia’s recent past and the process of four Cambodians using their art to come to terms with that past today.
The Continuum: Beyond the Killing Fields has played throughout the world and is now making its Australian premiere at the Arts Centre, Playhouse from 15 – 18 September.