From August 10 to 24, Việt Nam Youth Theatre is performing a repertoire of plays to commemorate the death anniversary of playwright Lưu Quang Vũ. He is considered the most popular playwright of Việt Nam after the country's renewal.
Hạnh Nguyên, a reporter from People's Weekend, interviews artist Doãn Châu about the playwright's influence on national theatre. Châu was the set designer for Vũ's 30 plays.
Artist Doãn Châu. Photo nhandan.com.vn
Many people wonder whether Vietnamese theatre will have another outstanding playwright like Vũ. As his friend and colleague, what do you think?
I do not want to recall sad stories and painful memories. But I want to talk about the values that Vũ left for us. Human values are still in his works. Those are things that cannot be lost.
You lived and worked with Vũ during the most difficult but glorious period of Vietnamese theatre. How do you assess the influence of his works on cultural development?
Before Vũ, theatre works were written about popular people without incorporating human thoughts and aspirations.
When people watch plays by Vũ they realise that "this is my voice". I remember the years of my life when we lived and worked together. We sometimes sat up talking about his works until 2 or 3am.
He wandered to meet the motorcyclists and street vendors to talk with them and understand them. He collected the daily stories, aspirations and thoughts of the people to put into the works.
So his characters are very lively and not in 'ivory' towers.
His pen helps people from different social classes, such as farmers or intellectuals, to raise their voices. It has a big effect on the audience. His influence is so great that it makes us love life more. We fight against corruption but we avoid hurting people.
His plays, like Nàng Sita (Sita), have been performed by ten troupes or Đôi Dòng Sữa Mẹ (Two Mothers) by eight troupes.
A series of typical characters are presented in his plays. And many artists became popular by portraying the characters.
His works are not only popular at home but also abroad. Is he the only Vietnamese playwright to have works performed around the world?
When we performed in Russia and the US, viewers were surprised that Việt Nam has such a great playwright. They like the performances because of the human issues.
At a festival in Russia, our performance of Hồn Trương Ba Da Hàng Thịt (Trương Ba's Soul in Butcher's Body) impressed audiences. We were invited to return to Russia for a tour.
A French theatre critic said Vũ was "Molière of Việt Nam". Looking back on stage history, only Vũ's work can do such great things.
We always talk about him with respect, regret and hope. He did not write for himself but he wrote about human aspirations and the right to life. So his works are received enthusiastically.
He contributed to make society better.
I am not disappointed because if we have kept looking at the past we would be disappointed. It must be seen as a trend of the era and it evolves according to the development of society.
There is a bit of regret. We need be calm to see that life is like a sine wave. It is normal to go up and down.
What do you think about falling attendance at the theatre?
I go to some countries like Russia, France and England, and see few people going to the theatre. So, we should keep hoping.
I believe that life will give birth to people who make society better and continue the things our playwright left unfinished.
Watching new plays, to create the phenomenon like Vũ we have to wait. That is the rule. But I believe if there is good work the theatre will still be popular. VNS