|Big hair, big laughs: Tran Thanh, who won VTV Awards Best Comedian, said he always tried to make audience laugh as much as possible. — Photo Coutersy of Tran Thanh
HCM CITY (VNS) — Comedy enthusiasts in HCM City have never had it so good, with 45 comedic stage troupes performing three shows a week and spoiling them for choice.
Comic shows are the most popular at three venues in District 1 — the Youth Cultural House, Trong Dong Theatre and 126 Cach Mang Thang Tam Theatre.
126 Cach Mang Thang Tam, which began staging plays 15 years ago, is one of the busiest nightspots in the city. It stages comic plays by troupes led by Tran Thanh, who won VTV Awards best comedian in a live broadcast on Sunday night, and Thu Trang, who won top prizes at national comedy festivals in 2009 and 2011.
Two of the skits they perform, Muon Mang (Later) and Nha Thuong Nha Ghet (Love and Hate), are a big hit with both adults and children.
"People want to be entertained and forget their problems after a day of hard work; so we try to make them laugh," Thanh said.
Viet kieu comic actor Hoai Linh and his troupe perform at the Youth Cultural House, and their twice-weekly shows are always packed.
The group, which pokes fun at many ridiculous things in our daily lives, has a preference for traditional stories from the north like Giai Oan Thi Mau (Clearing unjust charge against Thi Mau) and Trang Lon (Doctor Pig).
Other, less famous troupes prefer to perform at cultural houses and entertainment centres in outlying districts like Thu Duc, Nha Be, Cu Chi, and Hoc Mon.
Most comedians performing in the city, like Hong Van, Huu Chau and Dinh Toan, are from drama theatre.
But some of them are unhappy with the state of things and say theatre in the city, looking at the spate of comic shows, seems to have begun to sell its soul to commerce.
"Fewer people are interested in seeing serious dramas," Cat Phuong, one the city's best known comedians but who is also among those lamenting the widespread descent into comedy, says.
"So I've started doing comedy. But if we continue to perform ‘instant noodles' plays — easy to write and not challenging for the audiences — people will soon tire of comedy."
Phuong and some of her talented colleagues often act at more than one theatre every night. In the event, neither they nor the directors have the time to worry about the quality of the script.
Comic actor Hong Van, owner of two theatres, concurs with Phuong, saying, "Comedians are losing by staging poor shows."
Tran Ngoc Giau, chairman of the city Theatre Association, says comedy is still underdeveloped in HCM City: "Comedy is in need of further investment both in terms of scripts and performances."
He is concerned that comic artists will start losing their audiences.
"They have to start changing their tune." — VNS