The Hanoitimes - Vietnamese water puppeteers have recently finished a 5-day tour to six cities in France to introduce the traditional art to French audiences.
They performed 36 shows during the tour to Lyon, Paris, Mougins, Sainte-Maxime, Marne-la-Vallee, and Mulhouse. According to Deputy Director of the Vietnam Water Puppet Theatre Vuong Tat Loi, the shows feature the daily lives of Vietnamese farmers and Vietnam’s myths.
Vietnamese water puppeteers.
The programme is part of the annual 21st Imagination Festival hosted by the World Cultures Institute. Gaffagua Benanti, the coordinator at the show in Paris, expressed her admiration for the traditional Vietnamese art, saying its unique layout and music enthralled audiences.
Water puppeteersis is a form of folk arts originating in the Red River Delta in the north of Vietnam, dating back in the 11th century. Many town and villages in Vietnam have communal ponds that are perfect stages for these impromptu performances, enhancing the widespread development of the art form. Presently, water puppetry is showed in a pool of water with the water surface being the stage.
Puppets are made of wood and then lacquered to be watertight and endurable. During performances, puppets are controlled via a pole-and string apparatus hidden under the water surface by puppeteers standing in waist-deep water behind the stage. While puppets play their roles according to the direction of puppeteers, singers of Cheo (a kind of traditional theater in Vietnam) sing songs to tell the story in words.
The theme of the play concentrates on the daily life of rural people and folklores that are imparted from generation to generation, not mention to stories of legends and national history. Above all, water puppetry created a relaxing space for rural citizens in the past; both watching and playing water puppetry was a good way for the local to entertain, escaping from their daily worries and hardworking life.
Through water puppetry plays, rural people also expressed their desire for a better life of prosperity and happiness. In current times, water puppetry has become a popular form of entertainment, especially for local children and foreigners who want to discover more about Vietnamese folk culture. Water puppetry is now frequently performed in puppet theaters in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and it is regret if you miss the chance to enjoy it.