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A Vietnamese play on Macbeth
By Nhu Hoa

Strutting the stage: Anh Tu, left, and Lan Huong find honour and challenge in playing the main role of Macbeth and his wife in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh
HA NOI — Stage director Le Hung has blown the Vietnamese spirit and the rhythms of contemporary life into Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to boost the classic tragedy’s appeal to local audiences.

"The audience believes classic tragedies are all very long and grievous dramas," says the Youth Theatre’s Le Hung.

"Although I’ve shortened the three-hour original to just two hours and will use sound and music to make Macbeth more familiar to the Vietnamese audience, it will still bear all the marks of a Shakespeare play."

Drums and nhi (Vietnamese two-chord fiddle) will help narrow the gap between Shakespeare’s characters and Vietnamese audiences.

The play’s music has been written by composer Trong Dai, based on Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No.8.

The biggest change Le Hung has brought to the classic is in the death scenes of Macbeth and his wife.

"I feel Shakespeare was afraid to put too many deaths on the stage, especially the suicide of Lady Macbeth, which may have disturbed audiences too much at the time," Hung says.

"These days, only death is strong enough to warn people against megalomania and violence."

Hung says he expects the scenes of the Macbeth couple’s deaths to be one of the most interesting moments in the play.

Hung says that the most difficult aspect of staging Macbeth is making the play flow continuously, because Shakespeare’s dramas always have more action than the audience can follow.

"I have had to rearrange the play and cut unnecessary acts. It’s too much to ask audiences to stay in their seats for three hours anymore," Hung says.

Anh Tu and Lan Huong, who play the lead roles of Macbeth and his wife, say they are honoured to appear in this ambitious version of Macbeth.

"Winning the main role in such a great Shakespeare play would make any stage actor happy, and I’m certainly not immune," says Tu.

He says classical tragedies are always a challenge, because the actor’s abilities are really tested.

Meanwhile, Huong says actors have to convey more meaning through body language in classic tragedies, unlike modern drama, which relies more heavily on dialogue.

One of Huong’s most recent performances was a solo show in which she combined arts such as dance, pantomime, puppetry and body drama.

The Youth Theatre has found success with its comedies Doi Cuoi (Laughing Life) and Ke Khoc Nguoi Cuoi (Someone Cries, Someone Laughs), but it is also no stranger to serious drama.

Before Macbeth, the theatre put on the Shakespeare plays Romeo and Juliet and Othello.

"Our theatre’s objective is to lift the standard of Vietnamese acting and to introduce the cultural heritage of the world to local audiences," says Truong Nhuan, one of the theatre’s officials.

"Comedy or tragedy, our theatre always keeps its youthful style and is true to life," says Nhuan.

Macbeth, a tragedy in five acts written by Shakespeare, is based on the career of King Macbeth of Scotland.

The play was possibly first performed in 1606, and was first published in 1623 in a collection of Shakespeare’s work now known as the First Folio.

Shakespeare uses the play to reveal the innermost feelings of the characters, who are willing to become criminals in order to pursue their ambitions.

The play was scheduled to open to the public on Saturday night at 11 Ngo Thi Nham Street, at 8pm. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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