The Famed Cambodian Novel “Phka Sropon” (the faded flower) Performed on Stage

Actors rehearse a scene from the book “Phka Sropon” that has been turned into a play. Photo: Studio 80s

PHNOM PENH – One of the most famous novels in Khmer literature “Phka Sropon” (the faded flower) is being staged in a spoken-theatre performance at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh.

Performed in Khmer on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, the play is the result of a cooperation between the Department of Performing Arts at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia.  

The novel “Pkha Sropon” was written in 1947 by Nou Hach, a Cambodian author from Battambang province who died during the Khmer Rouge regime. A romance as well as a tragedy, the story is about the love of Vitheavy and Bunthoeun.  

“Phka Sropon” was selected because the novel has never been performed on stage although some excerpts have been heard in radio programs, said Nen Phearith who will perform the leading role of Bunthoeun.  As he explained, the Department of Performing Arts has turned the book into a play, selecting excerpts from the text. 

The performance involves 26 men and women performers. About half of them are professional actors of spoken theater while the others have expertise in Lakhon Basak traditional theater, dance, singing or playing musical instruments. It took the group four months of training and rehearsals to stage the performance, said Phearith, who is a professional actor.

One of the biggest challenges was to find the excerpts in the book that are the main points of the story and would enable the actors to speak lines that would reflect the story and drama unfolding, he said. And this had to be done for every character, making sure that the original story was presented and the meaning of every part of it respected, which took some work, Phearin said.   

The book is an emotional roller-coaster story with every scene of “Phka Sropon” being fascinating, he said. The performance focuses on three important episodes of the story: the one in which Vitheavy’s mother tries to keep Vitheavy and Bunthoeun apart; the episode in which Vitheavy and Bunthoeun meet; and the last episode is when Vitheavy dies.

Despite the challenge, he and the group persisted and, following discussions with senior officials of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, came up with a play for spoken theater. The group has performed four times already: two times for the ministry and two times as a pilot performance for a selected audience. And the play was well received each time, Phearith said, with the group being complimented by ministers and senior officials.

The group hopes that the performance will both popularize this famous Cambodian novel and make people, and especially young Cambodians, want to know more about Cambodian works and culture in general, Phearith said. And maybe encourage Cambodians to get involved in arts and culture—human resources were limited to stage this performance, he added

Phearith said he hopes the public will come to see this play and support the performers who worked so hard to stage it. Having the public come over would make all the difference for them, he said.  

The play “Phka Sropon” is being performed on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m., and on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. at Chaktomuk Conference Hall. The tickets are 20,000 riels ($5) to 40,000 riels ($10).

Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Meng Seavmey for Cambodianess.

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