PARIS — A traditional water puppet performance is taking place at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris through February 25, following popular performances in southern-west France.
|Legendary stories: A scene from The Puppet Master being performed in France. — Photo courtesy of Viet Nam National Water Puppetry Theatre
The programme, entitled Le Maitre des Marionnettes (The Puppet Master), has been directed by Dominique Pitoiset, director of the National Theatre of Bordeaux in Aquitaine, in co-operation with the Viet Nam National Water Puppetry Theatre.
Through stories of legendary dragons and former's lives in the countryside, the play has introduced this form of traditional Vietnamese culture to French audiences, highlighting the evolution of Vietnamese puppetry traditions.
The puppet show is performed to a background of traditional Vietnamese music including cheo (traditional music) and quan ho (love duets), as well as a poetry recitation by People's Artist Ngo Thi Thanh Hoai.
The shows, with puppets made of lacquered wood, are performed in a waist-deep basin containing 25,000 litres of water. For the first time, the puppeteers appear in front of the public while controlling the puppets instead of being hidden behind a screen as they generally are in Viet Nam.
According to Nguyen Tien Dung, deputy director of the Viet Nam National Water Puppetry Theatre and the head of a delegation of Vietnamese artists, the show is still imbued with Vietnamese cultural identity even though it has been staged by a French artist.
"We are proud to have the occasion to contribute to preserve and develop the country's precious traditional art form," said Dung.
Patrick Pernin, deputy director of the National Theatre of Bordeaux in Aquitaine, said he was attracted by the amazing creativity of this art form and that preparation for the programme helped him discover an amazing country.
After one year of preparation, the show debuted in Aquitaine and won a big success. The show continues in Paris and has won admiration from audiences, including children.
"I had the occasion to see water puppetry some years ago," said audience member Elodie Rivaud, who works in Paris. "But this time, I was really impressed by the show."
Pitoiset told a press conference in Ha Noi before performances began in France that he had been attracted by water puppetry since first visiting Viet Nam 10 years ago and decided to spend a time learning about the unique art form.
"I am happy to have had a chance to work with Vietnamese artists," he said. "The play couldn't have been realised without their contributions and their creative minds."
After Paris, performances will take place in other regions of France in June and December.
Water puppetry dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Hong (Red) River Delta area of northern Viet Nam. Today's water puppetry is a variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition, a distinctive Vietnamese art which has been recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. — VNS