The play Hoa Cúc Xanh Trên Đầm Lầy (Green Daisy on Marsh) by artist Nguyễn Sĩ Tiến of the Việt Nam Youth Theatre won gold medal for the best play at the National Drama Festival 2018 held in HCM City in April. This is the first time Tiến has staged a long theatre work, despite having directed many plays for children.
Tiến is now deputy-director of the Youth Theatre and vice-president of the Việt Nam International Association of Theatres for Children and Young People. He was an actor before studying directing in 2004. His leading roles in All My Sons and Lời Nói Dối Cuối Cùng (The Last Lying Word) earned him much praise.
Green Daisy on Marsh was written by late playwright Lưu Quang Vũ about 30 years ago. Vũ was the author of more than 50 plays, most of which reveal and criticise the darker side of society, especially corruption and authoritarian behaviour by local officials.
Hoa Cúc Xanh Trên Đầm Lầy is the only fictitious play by Vũ.
Culture Vulture speaks to Tiến about his award-winning play.
The play earned you best director and best actors for the leading roles at the National Drama Festival. Are you satisfied?
I want to thank our audiences who are passionate about theatre and the work by the playwright Vũ. I also want to thank my team for their co-operation while making the play.
This is the first time I’ve directed a play for adult audiences. And of course there was a lot of pressure because it was written by a master playwright. Vũ wrote the story about 30 years ago, before technological advancements had made their way into Việt Nam.
When we rehearsed the play we didn’t really talk about the festival or if we could participate or not. After every rehearsal I always encourage my artistes to try their best. the most important thing to us is that the audience enjoys themselves.
Our success is the result of the massive effort and contribution from each member of the team. We work together for a single purpose, and this makes us strong.
You have to live up to other directors who have staged the play. How did you feel seeing as this was your first production for adult audiences?
I was lucky to have the chance to make a play from Vũ’s work. I remember having to read and analyse his work while studying directing in 2004.
The first time I read his work I was stunned. I became obsessed. I couldn’t put together how the playwright had imagined the story. Humans today live in a society which diverges from truth and ethics and creates an emptiness in the human soul. The playwright wrote this work to wake us up.
It was staged for the first time by late director Nguyễn Đình Nghi. It was a lot of pressure for me. However the most difficult part was figuring out how to convey the playwright’s message, which was written about 30 years ago, to young audiences. I made this play to meet the taste of young audiences between ages 17-25, as I feel that they need this message the most.
The play is poetic and philosophic. I keep the playwright’s spirit alive through the play. Actually, playwright Vũ was familiar to my theatre - the Việt Nam Youth Theatre. His very first work and many others later were staged at the theatre.
My aim is to make the play attractive to young audiences. It moves me when I see that the young people are interested in the play.
Green Daisy on Marsh sums up the dream of the playwright. Do you believe in this dream?
We didn’t have green daisies in Việt Nam when the playwright wrote the work. People can now make this flower thanks to technology. But people still dream about honest and beautiful things. It is their desire to see these things. I think the playwright dreamed about these things because he was bored of a life full of slander, lies and humbleness.
The playwright pinpointed what is the green daisy and what is the marsh. "Green daisy" symbolises the dreams which human have never reached. "The Marsh" is reality, which can be hard and possibly destroy a person if they don’t know their way.
The dream is beautiful, poetic and pure. I think in a way it is rooted in his desire for people.
How can you convince the audience to believe in the dream?
We made the story a little lighter. Beauty always appears in life, be it in a green daisy or a marsh. I focus on the acting of the performers and the situation that changes the characters throughout the play. The play has a scene in which a real person and their robot clone meet and have a dialogue together.
There is a trend to remake masterpieces in a new style. What is your style?
Obviously, I support renovation. We have to change because the audience doesn’t want to watch old things. We updated theatre trends by going abroad to watch theatre performances. But I think change needs not be too strange to the audience. — VNS