The Royal Ballet Theatre troupe in LuangPrabang is world-famous for its picturesque charm. It is recognised as the most well-preserved city in the whole of South-East Asia.
Classified as a World Heritage City by UNESCO since 1995, both for the beauty of its architecture and for the wealth of its priceless heritage stemming from its traditions, the city amazes and conceals multiple curiosities.
This theater, called PhralakPhralam Theater, is situated in the left wing of the surrounding walls of the ancient royal palace in front of the Prabang pagoda. The theater was originally a reception hall.
Today a museum, the Palace is host to magnificent collections and is home to one of the most beautiful artistic companies of Laos, the Royal Ballet of PhralakPhralam.
More than one hundred dancers and musicians bring the magnificent Lao Ramayana epic to life over two hours.
Audiences can also admire the unique and very ancient royal dance, called Nang Kheo, which also contributes to the originality of the city of LuangPrabang. This living art constitutes an important part of the priceless heritage of the city, which every year receives more and more visitors from around the world.
This provincial government troupe of some 60 artists was established in 1999 following a joint project between the LuangPrabang Provincial Service of Information and Culture and the Institute of Cultural Research (ICR) in Vientiane to re-establish the ancient “Lao Ramayana”.
For years now, the Royal Ballet troupe has performed Phra-LakPhra-Lam, the Lao version of the sacred poem, the Ramayana, in the Royal Palace in LuangPrabang. Then in 1975, after 15 centuries of annual performances, the Theatre was banned and the master artists and teachers had to look for other work.
In 1993, after an absence of more than 15 years, the Institution of Cultural Research and the Provincial Government Office in LuangPrabang established a committee to revive limited performances of Phra-LakPhra-Lam for festivals.
The theater reopened in 2002 at the National Museum in LuangPrabang, located on the site of the old Royal Palace.
Phra-LakPhra-Lam has to be understood as a fantastic story involving a multitude of divine characters. This dreamlike epic of Indian origin tells the story of Prince Phra-Lam (Rama) and of the infinite love he shares with attractive Princess Sida (Sita). Regrettably this love is disturbed by the jealousy of Totsakhan (Ravana) who, using skilful subterfuge, kidnaps the Princess and takes her to Lanka Island, the island of the giants (Niaks, Rakshasa). Jatayu the vulture king, son of Garuda, brings the proof of this kidnapping to Phra-Lam by showing him Sida’s ring lost during her fight to Lanka. On this quest for Phra-Lak’s lost love, his brother Lakshmani accompanies him, helped by the army of the monkeys under the command of Hanuman and his generals. After a long and hard battle over the sea, the miserable King of Lanka is killed and his army of giants decimated. On returning to the princely palace, after the jubilation of celebrations, Phra-Lam momentarily doubts the real loyalty of Sida during the long stay with her supposed enemy. Sida proves her innocence by submitting herself to an ordeal by fire and all ends in order and peace.
The performance of the Phra-LakPhra-Lam lasts approximately two hours and is held in the theatre of the former Royal Palace of LuangPrabang, which was formerly used as the royal ballroom and reception room. The room can accommodate a great number of people, and in the evening it is specially lighted to great effect.
Guests can hear cicadas, crickets and frogs in the palace gardens which echo the sounds of the orchestra.
The music accompanies and illustrates the nine dances of the Phra-LakPhra-Lam. Each evening, two of the nine dances are performed and the totality of the performance invokes the ancient royal kingdom of Lane Xang. Shows are held every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 1800h in high season (October to March) and 18h30 in low season (March to September).
Note: It is forbidden to take photos during the performance so as not to interrupt the dancers. Members of the audience are welcome to take photos at the end of the performance.
Source: Lao News Agency