Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Noted water puppeteer Phan Thanh Liêm has just opened his second miniature theatre for water puppetry at his private home in Hà Nội’s Long Biên District.
Born into a family with seven generations working as puppeteers in Rạch Village, Nam Chấn Commune, Nam Trực District in the northern province of Nam Định, Liêm performs with a specially designed mobile stage for water puppetry invented by his father.
Liêm has also created various new puppets to perform alongside traditional ones. He has composed his own scripts and served as the main puppeteer for the past 20 years.
His mobile stage includes a nylon water tank, which is used as the water surface for the art. The tank is designed to look like a communal house, which serves as the backdrop for the puppets.
Liêm’s father, Phan Văn Ngải, has helped trained many generations of artists for the Central Puppetry Theatre and puppetry troupes for various localities. His mobile stage for water puppetry is still used by central and local troupes. The Louvre Museum displays a puppet named Chú Tễu carved by Ngải.
Ngải has run a family puppetry troupe with Liêm, who has realised the limitations of the form’s traditional big stage, which consists of a communal house located on a large lake or tank. It is not only large but also difficult to move and not suitable for a family-sized troupe.
Liêm’s first miniature stage for water puppetry was first used in 2000 at Vân Hồ Art Exhibition Centre in Hà Nội with small puppets on a tank 80cm in length and 50cm. Then Liêm designed the larger tank that he uses now.
Up close: With the mini stage, the distance between artists and audiences is reduced. Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
At the opening ceremony for the private water puppetry stage in Long Biên District last week, Liêm said the mobile stage has many advantages.
“It’s small, light, convenient to bring to serve audiences in small spaces like schools, offices and even private homes,” he said. “It’s also convenient for performance in remote areas or abroad.”
“With the small stage, the distance between the stage and audience is also reduced,” he added. “Artists and audiences have a better chance to exchange ideas on the traditional water puppetry art of Việt Nam.”
Liêm has not only served domestic audiences but also traveled overseas to perform. He has created various scripts to reflect today’s important issues.
His first mini theatre for water puppetry in Khâm Thiên Market Lane, in Đống Đa District, has become popular with both domestic and foreign tourists.
His second home theatre is located at No 22, Lane 145/8, Thạch Bàn Street, Long Biên District.
“I opened this second theatre as it is a convenient stop on the tours to Quảng Ninh Province or Bát Tràng Pottery Village,” he said. “My first theatre in Khâm Thiên Lane cannot meet audiences’ demands, though many foreigners like to walk through the lane to reach my theatre there.”
The theatre in his house in Khâm Thiên Lane can receive up to 21 audience members while the new one in Long Biên District can welcome 50.
At the opening ceremony, film director Đặng Nhật Minh was impressed with the colour of silt in the tank.
“Liêm told me that is the silt from Hồng River,” Minh said. “He puts the silt from Hồng River on the tank not only at home theatres but also brings along the silt to perform overseas, as he has not been able to find any other colours representing the Vietnamese countryside besides the colour of natural silt. — VNS