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Cheo theatre celebrates 60 years

Update: September, 22/2012 - 09:01

 

Village roots: A scene from the play Quan Lon Ve Lang (Great Mandarin Comes to the Village), which will be performed by the Ha Noi Cheo Theatre tonight and broadcast live on VTV1. — File Photo
HA NOI (VNS) — The artists and crew of the Ha Noi Cheo Theatre will continue to try their best to further develop the traditional artform of cheo, said the theatre's director, Trinh Thuy Mui, during a ceremony yesterday held to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Cheo (traditional opera) is a form of theatre with roots in village festivals in the Hong (Red) River Delta. Performances include folk songs and dances combined with instructive or interpretative sketches dealing with stories from legends, poetry, history and daily life, plus scenes of acrobatics and magic. Many cheo plays tell stories of chiefs, heroes and maidens and offer an eclectic mix of romance, comedy and tragedy.

Tonight, the theatre will present the cheo play Quan Lon Ve Lang (Great Mandarin Comes to the Village) in a performance that will be broadcast live on Viet Nam Television's VTV1. The production, staged by Doan Hoang Giang and critical of the vices of Vietnamese mandarins, won the golden medal at the National Professional Cheo Festival last year.

During the past week, the theatre has presented performances of extracts of well-known cheo productions that have brought fame to the theatre, including Quan Am Thi Kinh (Goddess of Mercy Thi Kinh), Ngoc Han Cong Chua (Princess Ngoc Han), Nang Sita (Sita) and Co Son (Mrs Son).

The Ha Noi Cheo Theatre, which has also just launched an official website at http://cheohanoi.vn, was founded in 1952 by writer Tam Lang and a number of performers who wanted to assert the role of cheo in the face of many other artforms that had been imported into Viet Nam, including painting and modern music.

Over the years, the theatre has played an important role in preserving and promoting the traditional art, and it has received the first-class Labour Medal in recognition of its contributions to national culture.

In the modern times, however, cheo has faced difficulties attracting audiences. In order to find new audiences, the theatre has produced a number of shows inspired by well-known folk tales, including Qua Tao Than (Magic Apple), Cay Tre Tram Dot (The Hundred-Knot Bamboo Tree) and Cay Khe (Starfruit Tree). The theatre has also restored ancient plays, revising scripts to accommodate modern tastes.

"We have improved the quality of the shows by upgrading our facilities," said Meritorious Artist Thuy Mui. "We have tried to make our stage modern and beautiful to inspire audiences."

In an effort to promote cheo, the theatre has set up satellite ticket offices at 15 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street and at Hoan Kiem Lake's Ngoc Son Temple. The theatre has also brought its productions to schools.

"We hope to help [children] understand more about this traditional art," said the theatre's deputy director, Meritorious Artist Quoc Anh. "We hope that, in the next five or 10 years, children will become regular cheo theatregoers." — VNS

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