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22 août 2008

Children Of The Khmer, The World@St George's, Edinburgh

Reviewed by Lynne Walker, The independant, Thursday, 21 August 2008

The World is a mini-festival that is the brainchild of Toby Gough, who brought young Sri Lankan survivors of the 2004 tsunami to the Royal Botanic Garden three years ago. Now he has enlisted the help of Brian Cox as patron, and Peter Gabriel and Kylie Minogue as backers, to celebrate international culture, from dancers from Brazil's favelas, to musicans from West Africa, to salsa dancers from Cuba.

Heading the bill is Children of the Khmer, featuring 26 orphaned Cambodian dancers and musicians schooled by survivors of the Killing Fields, when educated people were slaughtered in vast numbers and musicians forced to smash their precious instruments or die.

The country's ancient arts and legendary tales are revived in an irresistibly engaging production by these highly disciplined, enthusiastic teenagers. From the elegant opening candlelit "Prayer", the show focuses on varied aspects of folklore and tradition – as depicted in the carvings of Angkor Wat temple – from the ritual of "dashing coconut shells" and skill of picking cardamom, to an amusing re-enactment of the tale of the golden mermaid and the monkey king.

Exquisitely stylised in gesture, gorgeously colourful in costume, the dancers are expertly accompanied on traditional and ceremonial instruments in a show that dazzles in its infectious exuberance.

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