Hà Nội’s private drama theatres search for new ways to seduce audiences

January 10, 2022 - 10:00
Over the past two years, almost all theatres have been affected pandemic restrictions. While many private drama theatres in HCM City have grown in popularity, those in Hà Nội are still finding ways of reaching new audiences. 

HÀ NỘI — While many private drama theatres in HCM City have grown in popularity over the past years, those in Hà Nội are still finding ways of reaching new audiences. 

Since founding Hà Nội’s first private theatre in 2016, People’s Artist Lệ Ngọc has travelled Hà Nội and the northern provinces, putting on hundreds of shows to thousands of people. The shows mostly showcase the culture and lifestyle of people in Hà Nội. 

In 2020, the theatre toured HCM City for the first time, where, according to Lệ Ngọc, they had the chance to learn the tastes of southern audiences.

Actors of Lệ Ngọc Theatre performing ‘Dế Mèn’ (The Cricket), adapted from the children story ‘Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký’ (The Cricket’s Adventure) by writer Tô Hoài. — Photo vietnamplus.vn

“Once we understand their taste, we can produce dramas with the content that satisfies audiences in both Hà Nội and HCM City,” Ngọc said.

To pursue that goal, the theatre is staging two plays, The Temple Burner by Russian playwright Grigori Gorin, and Vang Bóng Một Thời (Once Upon An Old Time) by Vietnamese author Nguyễn Tuân. The plays, part of the five works that the theatre schedules to premiere in 2022, will be presented to Hà Nội audiences right before Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday. The theatre also plans to tour HCM City once the COVID-19 pandemic is better controlled.

Artist Ngọc said she is undaunted by any difficulty in operating a private theatre.

“The more challenges we face, the more we can prove our love and passion towards the art of drama,” she said.

“The difficulty also is a motivation for me to try my best to lure audience to the drama stage,” she said.

Like Ngọc, founder of the private theatre LucTeam, People’s Artist Trần Lực has also had to find ways to keep his theatre active.

“Obviously, you have to spend your own money. However, money is not enough to develop a private theatre. You also need to find a new way of your own to access your audience,” he said.

In 2022, the LucTeam will debut the works in which audiences can interact with actors.

LucTeam actors stage the play Quẫn (Miserability). — Photo courtesy of LucTeam

Last November, LucTeam performed Antigone, a theatre project to popularise the work by Sophocles – a classic Athens' playwright.

The play is about Antigone, a young woman who defied the King’s law to bury her brother, whom King Creon decided is not worthy of a grave. Antigone disobeyed the law and is sentenced to death.

The play is about this ever-recurrent conflict between positive law and natural law, between authority and universal order. It exposes the dangers of absolute rule and implies that there must be an alternative order to tyranny. LucTeam staged the play in an expressionist style, which has proved popular with audiences.

The plays by LucTeam have formed their own “identity” as they all employed the dramatic convention technique. Other plays such as Cơn Ghen Của Lọ Lem (Cinderella's Jealousy), Quẫn (Miserability), and Nữ Ca Sĩ Hói Đầu (The Baldly Female Singer) have brought much applause.

Talking about LucTeam’s efforts, Dr. Nguyễn Thị Minh Thái said: “For Trần Lực, finding the key to open the door to creativity has never been difficult. The most difficult thing is to find a source of finance to invest but he is also never discouraged by this matter. Private drama theatres in the North can get by thanks to the endurance and aspiration of the people like him.”

Despite spending his retirement savings on new experimental plays, Lực doesn’t mind because he is committed to his audiences. 

After every show, LucTeam conducts a Q&A session which helps the theatre learn about how their work is received, and what to do better next time. 

For the Lệ Ngọc Theatre, the number of tickets sold has been increasing gradually.

The theatre does its best to access theatre-goers. To refresh themselves after COVID-19, they are finding new ways to stage their plays.  

“It’s the only way for us to stand out. If we can’t attract audiences, it is our fault. We can’t blame it on the audience’s taste, or the popularity of digital entertainment platforms,” director Ngọc said. — VNS