The classical traditions of Cambodia are, to a great extent, an integral part of the Indian-influenced court culture of South-East Asia. On the other hand, lakhon bassac, the popular theatre of Cambodia, bears strong Vietnamese and Chinese influences as a result of the close contacts between Cambodia and southern Vietnam during the period of French colonial rule.
Lakhon bassac is a form of spoken and sung theatre accompanied by both Vietnamese/Chinese-influenced music and Cambodian music. Sometimes even Western instruments are included. The acting is often improvised, while Cambodian classical dance gestures and poses are included in the dance scenes.
The stories are performed in the style of romantic comedy with additional elements of farce. The plots may deal with mythical and historical themes or themes from the Buddhist Jataka stories. Vietnamese and Chinese stories are also used. Earlier, performances could last as many as six nights. There were tens of lakhon bassac troupes performing all over the country before the beginning of the unrest of the early 1970s.