Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cambodian monks force nation's first rock opera off air

I've got an interest in censorship, and it amuses me that it's going haywire in countries other than Singapore and Malaysia. via AFP.

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian monks have persuaded authorities to ban the country's first rock opera, which features actors dressed as clergy who break into song and dance, saying it insults Buddhism.

In a letter sent to the ministry of cults and religion, as well as to the media, the Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist Monks also demanded an apology from the show's director, writer and actors.

"Where Elephants Weep", a modern take on a traditional Cambodian love story that merges pop and rock music with more traditional and historical Cambodian tunes, played in Phnom Penh from late November through early December.

It tells the story a Cambodian-American man who returns after the demise of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime to reconnect with his roots. While he is a monk, he falls into a doomed love affair with a pop singer.


The show had a successful US preview last year and, after its run ends in Cambodia, it is expected to tour South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan before returning to the United States.

This actually resonates with past events in Singapore. In 1984, for example, the Singapore Buddhist Federation tried to ban a Chinese opera excerpt from "Forsaking Vows", in which a Buddhist monk and nun get down and dirty. I've also been told of theatremakers being advised, in the '80s, not to stage the musical "Nunsense", even though Catholic priests were cool with it, just because they didn't want to start a precedent for mocking religious figures through drama.

I'll probably be going to Cambodia in November to help out with the Flying Circus Project. I suppose this'll be an old joke by then. Helas!

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