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Kids’ shows that entertain and educate

Update: May, 28/2017 - 09:00
Quality costumes: The main characters from The Blue Bird.
Viet Nam News

When the play The Blue Bird ended at Việt Nam Youth Theatre the audience was delighted, some of the children even asked to go up on stage and take photos with the characters. The children’s play was a new work by the theatre, aiming to keep kids entertained as well as educated during the summer vacation. 

This is the first time The Blue Bird has been staged in Việt Nam thanks to co-operation between the youth theatre and Wallonie Bruxelles. The play was written by Belgian Nobel Prize-winner Maurice Maeterlinck in 1909. The play tells the story of two children from a poor family who search for a blue bird - a messenger of happiness, to bring health to a sick baby girl. 

Their journey takes place in a dream, but the play ends in real life with the child giving its own caged-spotted-dove to the baby girl which makes the girl so happy that she becomes well again. 

“The play is meaningful,” said Nguyễn Thái Hà, mother of a four-year-old girl. “I think my daughter enjoyed the show even if she did not fully understand the significance and philosophy of the play.”

“It is great that young audiences can see The Blue Bird on the occasion of the International Children’s Day on June 1 and during the summer vacation as well. Normally, television shows are on during this time, luring children with beloved animated characters. So it’s nice that they can see something like The Blue Bird by the youth theatre. The play is not just for children, but also for the parents," said Hà. 

The play is staged by Belgian director Xavier Lukowski and performed by a large number of actors. It is also the first time director Lukowski has staged The Blue Bird and he said it was enjoyable to work with Vietnamese actors. 

"It is very interesting because the playwright Maeterlinck was from a European country, but when he wrote the play he was impacted by Buddhism and Hinduism," said the director. “And it is also wonderful for me - a European director and the youth theatre’s actors - Asian actors to stage the play in an Asian country."

The Blue Bird used to be staged in many countries around the world. But due to budgetary concerns the number of countries putting on the play has dropped significantly. The high costs and requirements of many actors are prohibitive, according to director Lukowski. "I think it is a large investment by the youth theatre to stage this play," he said.

It took about three months to prepare the play with the participation of about 50 actors and composers Belgian Daniel Buron and Vietnamese Tuấn Nghĩa. The original play has about 12 scenes but it was reduced to eight scenes in Việt Nam in order to suit young viewers.

Exciting story: The Blue Bird includes a number of animals, which are firm favourites with young audiences.

"The Blue Bird is a good play meeting the aesthetic demand of audiences," said theatre critic Dr Nguyễn Thị Minh Thái. "The play is a co-operation which harmonises factors of literature, script, staging styles and acting skills. The director is successful in finding the key that suits Vietnamese audiences. 

"It can be said that the actors’ performances convey meaningful elements of the play. An eye-catching style; good music and stage design makes for a good play," said critic Thái. 

Việt Nam Youth Theatre is a leading art unit in Việt Nam that stages shows for children. The tickets are always sold out on popular holidays. 

"The Blue Bird marks a milestone in our theatre’s repertoire," said Trương Nhuận, the theatre director. "Recently, we have also staged works based on popular Vietnamese and international literature such as Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký (Adventure of a Cricket) and fairy tales like Bear Prince and a Bean. We want to stage works that combine education and entertainment.”

It is difficult to stage a play for children, not to mention other art forms like concerts or ballet. Apart from the youth theatre which has the mission to entertain little children, other professional theatres and orchestras rarely put on shows for younger audiences. 

Many years ago, the Việt Nam National Symphony and Orchestra performed Ukraine Sergie Prokofiev’s fairy tale Peter and the Wolf. The one-hour symphony was suitable for children because it had a narrator.

On May 28, Hà Nội Chamber Orchestra will perform Peter and the Wolf at the Việt Nam National Academy of Music’s Grand Hall. Bringing classical music closer to the public and to children in particular is a desire shared by the members of the orchestra. They understand how important classical music can be in the development of children’s minds.

"Children are audiences that deserve strong attention," said Nguyễn Khắc Thành, the orchestra’s conductor. "They need to be respected like adults. A lack of high quality performances for children is a considerable concern for artists and all people."

Choosing Peter and the Wolf, Thành and his musicians want to introduce each instrument in the orchestra and explain the nature of a concert to children. Instruments become easy to understand when they represent characters in a story. The flute can sound like a bird; a drum is a gun; the oboe sounds like a duck and a cat’s meow can be expressed by a clarinet. 

Children are always excited and enthusiastic to see art performances because they are very curious and attracted by colourful and exciting shows. "The point is how parents can meet the needs of their children. Do they want to nurture their young minds or just give them entertainment for a while?" said musician Hoàng Thu Trang from Polaris Art & Music School. 

"Organising art performances for children is not simple. They take a great amount of effort from artists and organisers who brainstorm ideas with a view to making art that combines entertainment and education in an interesting way." — VNS

Seeing stars: Young audience members take photos with their favourite characters from the play. Photo Nguyễn Thúy Bình

 

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