|Director Cao Ngọc Ánh. — Photo baogiaothong.vn|
Việt Nam Youth Theatre launched a new musical entitled Viên Đá Ngũ Sắc (Five-Coloured Stone) on November 9 in Hà Nội. It is about Phùng Thiện Nhân who is dubbed the Vietnamese “Steadfast Tin Soldier”.
Nhân, who was abandoned by his biological mother at birth in the central province of Quảng Nam, was found a few days later in critical condition. He was barely alive and had lost most of his genitals and one leg due to a brutal attack by wild animals.
The infant survived the incident and was subsequently adopted by Trần Mai Anh, and moved to Hà Nội with his new family. With the support of an Italian surgeon, Thiện Nhân received successful reconstructive surgery in January 2011.
His foster mother, Mai Anh, later became the founder of the Thiện Nhân and Friends programme which, together with the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, raises funds to provide surgeries for poor Vietnamese children suffering from genital defects.
The musical director Cao Ngọc Ánh spoke about why she made the musical.
What about the Thiện Nhân story inspired you to make the musical?
I remember that when foster-mother Mai Anh brought Thiện Nhân home I did't care much although it was widespread in the media at that time. There have always been good people in society lending their hands to help the poor and needy, so I just thought Mai Anh was one of them.
There is one thing I didn’t understand, Thiện Nhân was abandoned by his biological mother at birth due to evil customs.
Later, I read an article with the headline You were born to my balmy heart and my emotions flared up. I was curious why the foster mother loved her adopted child so much.
After 13 years, I was invited to come to an event by Thiện Nhân Foundation and I met Mai Anh. We became friends.
|Actor Nam Phong (second from right) plays Thiện Nhân in the musical. — Photo courtesy of Việt Nam Youth Theatre|
When did you decide to make the musical?
I decided to make it at the end of last year when Mai Anh organised a charity surgeon for children in the central city of Đà Nẵng. She told me she wanted to have a cultural product to thank the surgeons.
By chance, one of the theatre's repertoire musicals Sóng has songs that are suitable for the purpose, so we performed the musical in Đà Nẵng City.
After that, I asked myself, why don't we make an exclusive musical for Thiện Nhân. There are a lot of stories about Thiện Nhân and they are enough for a musical production.
Could you tell us more about the musical?
I made the first episode of the musical based on my personal feelings. The next episodes tell stories about Thiện Nhân and the doctors. The doctors always wear blouses with colourful shapes when they conduct paediatric surgery.
We need good people and goodness, and we will spread goodness to society. It is the thing that musical producers want to do. I don't know how critics will appraise the musical, but we believe that the musical touches the hearts of audience members.
For artists, the most important thing is emotion. As long as those stories still make me feel emotions, I will still do it. The story may be old, but the emotions are not.
I am always inspired by the sentence "you were born to my balmy heart". The back stories to this are very moving.
The lyrics of the song Con Ơi Đừng Sợ (Don't Be Scared Baby) in the musical were written by Đinh Quang Trung, featuring what Mai Anh usually does with paediatric patients before surgery. She pats the children reassuringly and sings lullabies to ease the pain. Another song, entitled Là Tôi (Being Me) proves Thiện Nhân is like other kids.
What do you expect from the musical?
I think simply that I'm an artist and Thiện Nhân’s story inspires me to make the musical. I want to make the musical with a Vietnamese team. I have had the chance to watch musicals in the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea. They make musicals to honour their culture. I want to do the same, so I made this musical showing my pride in my homeland.
Plus, I think that the most important thing is to make a musical featuring what is happening in life. I made the musical Sóng about late poet Xuân Quỳnh. It brought the audience back to the 1980s. I made the musical with my efforts and my love to have a good product.
I don't know how the musical will be received by the audience. But I think if the musical is good the audience will look forward to the next performances. — VNS