2023’s best theatre shows honoured

December 31, 2023 - 08:03
Two new theatre shows featuring Vietnamese history were honoured as “2023’s Best Theatre Play” by the HCM City Theatre Association.
SHARING ART: Artists from the Phương Nam Theatre perform circus for school students in HCM City. Photo courtesy of the producer.

By Thu Anh

Two new theatrical shows featuring Vietnamese history have been honoured as “2023’s Best Theatre Play” by the HCM City Theatre Association.

They are Anh Hùng (The Hero), a tuồng (classical drama) play, and a circus show called Cha Rồng Mẹ Tiên (Dragon Father and Fairy Mother).

Anh Hùng is staged by talented artists from the state-owned HCM City Tuồng Theatre.

The 90-minute performance portrays the career of national hero Nguyễn Trung Trực, who gathered local farmers to fight against the French colonialists in Tân An and Rạch Giá (now Kiên Giang Province) in 1861.

Trực and his troops attacked and burned the warship L’Esperance of the French navy in Nhật Tảo Village in Tân An.

Trực was born as Nguyễn Văn Lịch in Gia Định Town, today Bến Lức District of Long An Province.

He was famous for his words, “Only when there is no grass in Việt Nam will there be no more Vietnamese fighting against foreign invaders.”

When Vĩnh Long, An Giang and Hà Tiên were lost to the French in 1867, Trực withdrew his troops to Rạch Giá and established a military base in Hòn Chông.

Trực’s insurgents attacked Rạch Giá military station of the French, killing Rạch Giá's provincial governor in 1868. The fight was a significant event that threatened the French colonial regime and was recorded in French military history.

The French killed Trực at Rạch Giá Market the same year.

NEW THEATRE: The newly opened private Thiên Đăng Drama Stage has 300 seats and promises to offer experimental shows of drama and musicals. Photo courtesy of Thiên Đăng Drama Stage.

“My play, Anh Hùng, is a patriotic epic. My actors hope to use their artistry to encourage young generations to learn Vietnamese history and love tuồng, which is part of national heritage,” said show director Hùng Vũ.

Vũ used a group of young talent, including theatre stars Kiều My and Bảo Châu, to perform lead roles.

Anh Hùng was chosen to be part of the long-term art project called Sân Khấu Học Đường (Theatre School) by the city’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in cooperation with the HCM City Theatre Association, that targets secondary students.

The project aims to preserve traditional Vietnamese music and theatre in secondary schools in HCM City. Thanks to the project, students from 15 schools will have opportunities to enjoy live performances and talk with their favourite actors.

VIETNAMESE HERO: A scene from the 'tuồng' (classical drama) play 'Anh Hùng' (The Hero), a production about national hero Nguyễn Trung Trực, who gathered local farmers to fight against the French colonialists in Tân An and Rạch Giá (now Kiên Giang Province) in 1861. Photo courtesy of the producer.

Tuồng developed from a folk art into a royal art in the 17th century. It is well-known in the Mekong River Delta provinces. It consists of singing, dancing and music, all of which are highly stylised and symbolic.

The honour of “2023’s Best Theatre Play” also went to Dragon Father and Fairy Mother by Phương Nam Theatre, one of HCM City’s leading private art troupes.

The variety show features 30 music, dance, puppet and circus performers.

It tells the stories of Vietnamese people and their history, culture and lifestyle in different periods. The daily lives of farmers are also highlighted.

Phương Nam actors use their artistry to depict images of beautiful rivers, green fields, forests, villages and animals.

They perform tài tử music, the prototype for vọng cổ (nostalgic tunes) and cải lương (reformed opera).

New theatres

The HCM City Theatre Association presented "The Best Theatre Play of the Year” by voting among 15 different categories and 106 entries.

“We hope our awards will encourage art troupes and theatres to develop and promote their business and art,” said Nguyễn Trung, a member of the jury.

The association also honoured three private theatres - Thiên Đăng Drama Stage, Trương Hùng Minh Drama Stage and 5B Small Theatre - for their contribution to the industry in 2023.

While 5B Small Theatre has a long history, both Thiên Đăng Drama Stage and Trương Hùng Minh Drama Stage are new.

Trương Hùng Minh Drama Stage in District 10 opened last year and offers drama and musical shows, and stand-up comedy performances aimed at young people.

Thiên Đăng Drama Stage is owned by Meritorious Artist, theatre director and producer Thành Lộc.

The theatre has 300 seats and promises to offer experimental drama and musical shows.

It also offers traditional theatre genres of cải lương and tuồng, along with new concepts and techniques in drama.

It debuted with the drama show called Giáng Hương (Women in the Theatre) in September, and tickets were sold out.

The play is based on Sân Khâu Về Khuya (The Dark in the Theatre), a famous cải lương (reformed opera) play in the 1960s written by late celebrated artist Năm Châu, who was a guru of the South’s traditional theatre.

It portrays an actress who makes sacrifices and devotes her life to her career.

Famous actresses Lê Khánh and Vân Trang are featured.

“My theatre’s name is Thiên Đăng. That name means ‘flame of the sky’. Good actors devote their lives to theatre. Their art is like a flame and they will keep the flame burning bright and deliver it to audiences,” Lộc wrote on his facebook page. VNS