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French director takes 'Saigon' to HCM City

Update: September, 13/2018 - 09:00
Renowned: A scene from the drama Saigon directed by Caroline Guiela Nguyen of France. It will be staged in HCM City next week to celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations between France and Việt Nam. — Photo by Jean Louis Fernandez
Viet Nam News

by Phương Mai

Saigon, a theatrical drama written and directed by Caroline Guiela Nguyen of France, will be staged in HCM City next week.

The premiere of the play in Việt Nam celebrates 45 years of diplomatic relations and the fifth anniversary of the strategic partnership between Việt Nam and France.

The play is set in a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon in Sài Gòn (now HCM City) in 1956, when the last French person left Việt Nam, and in Paris in 1996, when the Vietnamese Prime Minister issued a decision on repatriation of overseas Vietnamese.

The characters meet in the restaurant to share their stories of four decades, which include a story of a French soldier falling in love with a Vietnamese woman, then taking her back to France with him, a story of a separated couple, and a tale of a French son and his Vietnamese mother.

The performance features 11 actors who are French, Vietnamese-French and Vietnamese, including Pierric Plathier, Nguyễn Thị Mỵ Châu, Trần Nghĩa Ánh and Hoàng Thị Trúc Ly.

Saigon premiered at the Festival d’Avignon, an annual contemporary performing arts event in France, last July, and received praise from audiences and critics.

The production has been staged in Paris and Lyon, Berlin, Amsterdam, Beijing and Shanghai, and Stockholm.

In HCM City, the play will take place at Bến Thành Theatre on September 21 and 22.  

It will be presented in both Vietnamese and French, and there will also be French and Vietnamese subtitles.

Meritorious Artist Trần Vương Thạch, director of HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera, who attended the premiere of Saigon, said: “I was surprised. The play reflects humanitarian concerns and the reality of life of French and Vietnamese people and their fates.”

“The play carries an old story but it brings new artistic value and a new style in staging, and is modern in expressing the emotions of each character,” Thạch added.

Staging of Saigon

Caroline, whose mother is Vietnamese, wanted to tell the stories of Vietnamese who moved to France in 1956 and returned to their homeland in 1966.

In 2015 and 2016, Caroline and her staff visited HCM City to learn about Sài Gòn in the 1950s and conduct interviews with people who had lived during that period.

They also did research and interviewed overseas Vietnamese living in Paris.

Caroline invited professional French and Vietnamese-French actors to perform in her play.

She also opened an audition call at the HCM City University of Theatre and Cinematography in 2016 to find actors for her play.

Hoàng Thị Trúc Ly, 23, a new graduate of the university, said: “I was so lucky and happy when Caroline chose me. I’ve learned so much from her and my co-actors. They taught me to become professional actor.”

Because the actors have different origins, Caroline decided to let them use their own language to create words for their characters.

Actor Pierric Plathier, 34, who joined Caroline at the beginning of the project, said they had encountered challenges in transferring the story through a theatrical drama. “It’s easier with a movie.”

“Caroline and the cast did a good job. The play has left a very strong feeling with audiences all over the world,” said Plathier, adding that they have performed 90 shows and target staging a total of 200.

Caroline studied directing at the school of the National Theatre of Strasbourg in 2005 after studying sociology and performing arts.

In 2009, she co-founded the company Les Hommes Approximatifs with her partners.

Caroline is associated with the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe and with MC2: Grenoble, and is part of the artistic collective of the Comédie de Valence, the Centre Dramatique National Drôme-Ardèche.

The play will take place at 6:30 pm on September 21 and 3:30 pm on September 22. The theatre is at 6 Mạc Đỉnh Chi Street in District 1. Tickets are available at https://goo.gl/f8eH7X. — VNS

Gripping: The stories being told include a story of a French soldier falling in love with a Vietnamese woman, a story of a separated couple, and a tale of a French son and his Vietnamese mother. — Photo by Jean Louis Fernandez

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