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Vietnamese Puppeteers gather for festival (April 19, 2003)


Fisherman and the Gold Fish
Pulling strings: A scene of The Fisherman and the Gold Fish, which will be performed during the festival. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
Puppeteers from across the country are gather-ing in Ha Long for this year’s National Puppetry Festival.

The festival has been difficult to organise because the country only has six troupes; Unima Viet Nam, Hai Phong, HCM City, Dac Lac, Thang Long and the Central Puppetry Theatre.

The five-day festival, which opened on Tuesday, aims to bring an experimental edge to this traditional art form by promoting discussion amongst attendants.

To encourage the art, the festival’s organisational board has made no attempt to limit the subject matter and form of the performances, with a view to encouraging puppeteers to finding new interpretations for old narratives.

Over 100 puppeteers from five troupes will stage 14 plays, alongside a solo performance from Van Hoc.

However, the performances will all be somewhat dated, according to Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

One of the festival’s highlights will be the performance from the Hai Phong puppeteers who won first prize at the international puppetry festival in Prague last year, with their lacquered buffaloes and fire-breathing dragons.

The troupe are set to perform Ong Lao Danh Ca va Con Ca Vang (the Fisherman and the Gold Fish) alongside the Central Puppet Theatre’s Chuyen Nguoi Vo Si (the Boxer’s Tale).

Several new stories are due to make their debut at the festival, including Cau Chuyen Tre Tho (A Child’s Story) from the Thang Long Puppet Theatre, and Ta Ao Que Huong (Homeland Dress) from the Central Puppet Theatre, which will feature puppets in conical hats, jeans and ties.

It’s commonly believed that puppeteers should receive professional training, but Viet Nam has no such training courses available.

"Water puppetry is unique and puppets can be easily renewed and used more creatively," says Vuong Duy Bien, the deputy-director of the Central Puppetry Theatre.

The puppet is controlled behind the scenes by the puppeteer who uses his hands and legs. The puppets face is created with a balloon attached to a mask.

Bien said that although it’s sensible to look to the future, it’s also important to try and preserve the puppet’s natural beauty and traditional folk characteristics.

In recent years, the puppets have become much more beautiful and vivid. However, the art continues to be hampered by poorly equipped theatres.

Puppets theatres need to work in co-ordination with artists involved in drama, pantomime and traditional opera if they really want to breathe new life into the art form, the Lao Dong newspaper said. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency

     

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