Training project preserves traditional puppet

September 18, 2023 - 10:33
A new art project preserving Vietnamese puppetry created by veteran puppeteers from private theatres in HCM City has been launched.
PUPPET MASTERS: Veteran puppeteers take part in a new art project led by Hoàng Duẩn from the private Phương Nam Theatre, which aims to offer training in puppetry for young artists in HCM City. — Photo courtesy of Phương Nam Theatre.

HCM CITY — A new art project preserving Vietnamese puppetry created by veteran puppeteers from private theatres in HCM City has been launched.

The project is led by Hoàng Duẩn, who has 20 years in the traditional art form, and his staff from the Phương Nam Theatre.

It aims to introduce and expose young artists and students from art centres and schools to Vietnamese puppetry.

Training courses and talks by experts about the art, and its history and development during various periods will be included.

Duẩn is working with artists from the Rồng Vàng (Golden Dragon) Water Puppet Troupe to offer training on traditional water puppetry.

In Việt Nam, water puppetry has its origins in the 11th century in the Red River Delta of the North where the wet-rice civilisation took shape. It is performed on a stage in a pool of water.

The performance is often organised in traditional festivals and holidays attracting local villagers, especially children. Colourful puppets are made of wood and covered with red lacquer trimmed with gold, and controlled from the chamber next to the stage by long bamboo rods and strings.

TRADITIONAL ART: In Việt Nam, water puppetry, with origins in the 11th century, is performed on a stage in a pool of water. — Photo courtesy of Rồng Vàng Water Puppet Troupe.

“Puppetry has been performed for about 1,000 years in Việt Nam. Our project will help to increase the number of professional puppeteers as well as keep the ancient art alive,” said Duẩn, who is also a theatre playwright, director and producer.

He had a deep passion for puppetry when he was at university. After becoming involved in drama, he began to understand how knowledge and experience in puppetry enhanced his talent on stage.

Duẩn has worked to offer quality puppet shows with sound and light effects, beautiful clothes and accessories suited to the performance’s theme.

In HCM City, only two art troupes -- Phương Nam Theatre and Rồng Vàng Water Puppet Troupe -- offer puppet performances.

The Rồng Vàng Puppet Troupe opened in 2015 and has worked with local and foreign tourist agencies in the city to introduce their art to visitors. They have also co-operated with many schools in the region to offer free shows in grade schools.

The troupe has participated in many cultural exchanges and art festivals at home and abroad.

Its shows, such as Tễu (Uncle Tễu), Đánh Cá Trên Sông (Fishing on the River) and Bác Ba Phi (Uncle Ba Phi), tell stories about patriotism and national heroes based on Vietnamese fairy tales.

Phương Nam Theatre offers performances that combine the traditional genres of circus and puppetry as well as folk music.

“We hope young people will learn about the country’s history, culture and lifestyle through traditional puppetry,” said Phương Nam Theatre director Lê Diễn. — VNS