The Bard strikes a chord at opera
Vo Le Hong
(VNS) The timeless appeal and relevance of William Shakespeare reached out to Vietnamese youth under the skilful direction of Paul Stebbing last weekend at the HCM City Opera House.
|Family affair: King Lear with his daughters. — Photo British TNT Theatre
The TNT company's production of King Lear helped Vietnamese students, many of them from international schools and colleges in the city, discover the Bard's genius despite an undeniable language barrier that was partly overcome with Vietnamese subtitles, but mostly with clever audio-visual settings and the skilful histrionics of a seven-member cast.
After the curtains came down on the play, the youth rushed to interact with actresses and actors.
"Now you can understand why we like the Vietnamese audience," Stebbing said, taking in the enthusiasm with a smile.
"They really respond well and stay focused on the story – even young Vietnamese people that you might guess would find Shakespeare difficult.
"But perhaps a play like King Lear also touches an Asian audience in a special way because some of the Shakespearean values in the play – such as family loyalty – are closer to Asia than in Europe."
Stebbing noted that it was the troupe's fifth visit to Viet Nam.
"We are integrating the country in our Asian touring circuit and hoping to develop a reputation for popular and exciting drama in English in Viet Nam."
I asked one of the school students if she understood the play well.
She responded: "My teacher asked us to read the story King Lear first, and the scene titles in Vietnamese gave me the context to follow what was happening. I loved it!"
I felt somewhat jealous. At her age, I did not know anything about Shakespeare. It was only when I began attending university and started studying English that I learnt about the greatest English playwright.
My teacher at that time had helped his students to develop a special feeling about Shakespeare and I had later seen some productions of his plays, but in watching King Lear last week, I felt I had touched the real spirit of the Bard.
In fact, it was not easy for me to follow the play in English, but I was so caught up in the powerful drama that I could imagine the impact Shakespeare's plays have had over the years, showing up humankind's strengths, but more so its frailties and stupidities.
Stebbing spoke of the distance TNT theatre and the American Drama Group Europe has travelled over the years.
"I founded TNT in 1980 and with ADG we have become the most popular international touring theatre, performing in over 30 countries a year on three continents (sometimes four)."
The troupe has performed at many major international festivals and won several awards. TNT has also collaborated in co-productions at major venues such as the Athens Concert Hall and the St Petersburg State Comedy Theatre.
Famous actress Kim Khanh was effusive in her praise of the play and the work done by Stebbing.
"The director is excellent. It is not easy to have just seven actors playing more than 30 personalities, but he pulled it off. Using two long silk strips to create a storm was an amazing feat!"
The TNT's King Lear will be performed at Ha Noi's Opera House tonight and tomorrow before entertaining Da Nang's audience on Friday. — VNS