A scene in Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa (Glory Road), a documentary featuring artists of the Phương Ánh Troupe, a private, travelling tuồng troupe from Bình Thuỷ District in Cần Thơ City. The troupe’s artists are helping to preserve tuồng, a traditional genre of Vietnamese theatre which began in the 17th century. — Photo courtesy of the producer
CẦN THƠ — A new documentary film on tuồng or hát bội (classical drama) produced by Việt Nam Television will be released in Hà Nội, Cần Thơ and HCM City this month as part of the station’s efforts to introduce Vietnamese culture and theatre to audiences.
The film, Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa (Glory Road), features artists from the Phương Ánh Troupe, a private, travelling tuồng troupe from Bình Thuỷ District in Cần Thơ City.
It highlights veteran actress Nguyễn Thị Ánh, the troupe’s owner, who is the third generation of her family involved in the classical drama art.
Ánh and her actors travel around the region to offer interactive performances. They visit many villages of Cần Thơ and neighbouring provinces, including Hậu Giang, An Giang, Vĩnh Long and Đồng Tháp, to offer free training in music, sing and dance to youth to introduce future generations to their art.
The film’s young director Lê Mỹ Cường and his film crew spent several weeks living and working with actors from the Phương Ánh Troupe during shooting. They captured beautiful images featuring actors on stage and in daily life.
Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa provides audiences with the knowledge of tuồng, a symbolic form of Vietnamese theatre that originated in the central region and expanded in southern Việt Nam, particularly in Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta provinces.
Performances about the hopes and dreams of southern people are also featured.
The film will be released at 7pm at the French Cultural Centre in Hà Nội, IDECAF in HCM City, and in cinemas in Cần Thơ on October 18 and 28, and November 1.
It will air on VTV1 next month.
"Our troupe’s performances offer a true and unique style of tuồng. Our audiences can also learn to sing and dance traditional tunes after each show," said the troupe’s head Ánh.
Ánh said her troupe was keen on exposing youth to tuồng, which is part of their heritage that is hundreds of years old.
“Tuồng developed from a folk art into a royal art in the 17th century. Its themes include monarchist loyalty and patriotism which help define the play’s structure, language, music, struggles and characters' personalities.”
"I saw the love for hát bội from the local people after all of my shows," the 65-year-old said.
Ánh began singing on the stage at the age of 10 after learning the art from her parents who were famous in the region during the 1960s.
She worked for the Phước Tấn Hát Bội Troupe of Cần Thơ, playing several leading roles in famous historical plays.
In 1980, Ánh moved to Đồng Tháp Province and opened her own troupe called Đồng Tháp-Homeland which attracted dozens of skilled artists. Five years later, she closed the troupe after facing financial difficulties.
In 2004, she returned to her homeland, Cần Thơ, and reopened the Phương Ánh Troupe.
"Ánh is one of the region's very few professional performers who have kept the art original on stage. Thanks to her troupe, tuồng will remain alive," said Phan Thu Hoa, a resident of Cần Thơ City. — VNS