Drama troupe to restage best-selling plays

November, 06/2022 - 08:03
IDECAF Drama Troupe of HCM City will offer new dramashows on Vietnamese history aimed at young audiences.
ART FOR YOUTH: A scene from the musical 'Tiên Nga'. The HCM City-based IDECAF Drama Troupe is helping introduce Vietnamese theatre to young people. Photo courtesy of the theatre.

By Thu Anh

The IDECAF Drama Troupe of HCM City will offer new shows on Vietnamese history aimed at young audiences.

The troupe will restage a series of famous plays featuring historical events, including Mật Vườn Lệ Chi (Secret of Lệ Chi Manor.) and Tiên Nga (Fairy Tale) – both popular in the 2000s.

These plays highlight patriotism and loyalty and were directed by talented artists Huỳnh Anh Tuấn and Thành Lộc, the troupe’s founders.

Both Tuấn and Lộc have played a key role in the development of the city’s theatre, as they produced, directed and performed in many plays since their troupe, IDECAF Drama Troupe, opened in 1997.

The new version of Tiên Nga is scheduled to be staged on November 22.

The musical depicts Việt Nam’s traditional moral values in a semi-feudal-colonial society.

It is about the life of Lục Vân Tiên, a poor student who travels to the capital to take part in a civil service examination for mandarins.

Tiên rescues Kiều Nguyệt Nga, a beautiful woman from a wealthy family, from armed robbers. They fall in love, but face challenges living together.

The work Tiên Nga is based on Lục Vân Tiên (The Tale of Lục Vân Tiên), a popular epic of 2,076 lines in Nôm, an ancient Vietnamese ideographic script, by the blind poet Nguyễn Đình Chiểu of Gia Định (now HCM City) in the second half of the 19th century.

Chiểu’s poem centres on the topics of love, loyalty, bravery and justice. It is used in textbooks for secondary school students.

CLASSIC STORY: Meritorious Artist Hữu Châu (centre) performs in 'Bí Mật Vườn Lệ Chi' (Secret of the Lệ Chi Manor), a play on Vietnamese history restaged by the IDECAF Drama Troupe in HCM City. Photo courtesy of the theatre.

“My new version of Tiên Nga will focus on female characters. I wanted to highlight the beauty of Vietnamese women through my art,” said the play’s director Lộc, who has more than 50 years in the industry and won the title "Meritorious Artist" conferred by the Stage.

“I’m working to create my shows with images, sounds and music that provide young audiences with wonderful insights about the nation's history, traditional culture and theatre.”

Lộc spent a large sum on making costumes, light and sound effects. He used songs by well-known composer and music producer Đức Trí, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the US, for the play.

Another play, Mật Vườn Lệ Chi, will be restaged and feature stars of the IDECAF troupe, including Meritorious Artist Hữu Châu and Thanh Thuỷ.

The two-hour show revolves around the unjust death of national hero Nguyễn Trãi in the Later Lê dynasty, one of Việt Nam’s greatest politicians and poets.

It features scenes in early 1442 when King Lê Thái Tông visits Nguyễn Trãi at his Lệ Chi Manor.

The king meets Trãi’s young wife, Nguyễn Thị Lộ, who was known for her great learning.

He decides to stay overnight at the manor, and that night suddenly becomes ill and dies.

The court later blames Trãi and his wife for the king’s death, accusing them of treason. Trãi and Lộ, and members of three generations of both of their families, are then executed.

Twenty years later, King Lê Thánh Tông officially pardons Trãi, declaring that the great scholar was innocent in the death of King Lê Thái Tông.

Since its debut in 2000, Bí Mật Vườn Lệ Chi has been restaged many times in HCM City.

For his new version, the play’s director Tuấn simplified the set and costume design, and retained the authentic words used by Vietnamese centuries ago.

Tuấn said his young actors faced many challenges staging the historical drama, which features the tragic life and death of Trãi and his wife.

“The biggest challenge is how my young actors express the play’s theme and its characters’ spirit,” he said.

Theatre

The IDECAF Drama Troupe is one of the southern region’s leading private theatres. It attracts 30 professional artists, along with backstage workers.

It offers many experimental shows in drama, musical, cải lương (reformed opera) and hát bội (classic drama), two genres of traditional theatre in southern and central regions, respectively.

The theatre also offers performances targeting children.

Its long-term theatre programme, called Ngày Xửa Ngày Xưa (Once Upon a Time), began in 2000 and has offered more than 32 plays with more than 900 free performances for several thousand young children and teenagers, including disadvantaged children who live in shelters around the city.

“Through our programme, we want to provide children with new concepts and techniques in drama. We also hope to foster love of the theatre among the youth,” said director-actor Lộc, one of the programme’s founders.

The theatre’s new shows are being staged at Thanh Niên Theatre, 4 Phạm Ngọc Thạch Street, District 1. — VNS

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