Playgoers get two versions in one night

November 19, 2017 - 09:00

A play performed in both Vietnamese and Korean was recently presented to the public in Hà Nội.

Version one: Far-away Destination’s Vietnamese version by artists Đức Khuê (Thúy’s husband) and Lê Khanh (Thúy)
Viet Nam News

By Thúy Bình

A play performed in both Vietnamese and Korean was recently presented to the public in Hà Nội.

It was performed by artists from the Việt Nam Youth Theatre and the Jigeum Drama Troupe. 

The play, titled Bến Bờ Xa Lắc (Far-away Destination), is about family relations. It focuses on Thúy, a housewife. 

A quiet and boring life with her husband and her son satisfies Thúy until the appearance of Phương, her son’s girlfriend, and Trung, her old flame. The world to Thúy had been cooking, home care and waiting for her husband and son coming home every day. 

Thúy thinks she is happy to live with her husband, but Phương and Trung wake her up and encourage her to be herself. Troubles begin when Thúy determines to change her life. She asks her old lover, Trung, to help her find a job.

There is a Vietnamese saying that "old love burns strong". Once again, Thúy falls in love with Trung. 

The trouble then begins.

There is no doubt that Trung loves Thúy, but his love is not strong enough to draw him back from his hobbies. He leaves Thúy when she needs him. 

At the one-night show, the audience watched the Vietnamese version first to understand the plot. Then they enjoyed a performance by Korean artists. 

Bến Bờ Xa Lắc was written by playwright Lê Thu Hạnh. It debuted in Việt Nam more than 20 years ago. It was a theatrical phenomenon.

Performances were given by well-known artists, such as Đức Trung; Lê Khanh, Anh Tú, Chí Trung and Lan Hương, winners of the gold medal at the National Professional Theatre Competition, 1996. 

The play, directed by artist Xuân Huyền, was performed hundreds of times throughout the country, becoming a box-office hit for eight years. 

"I’m really excited to watch the play again," said Vũ Hồng Nga, a 40-something spectator. Nga watched the play nearly 20 years ago. She then loved Thúy and identified with the character, but now her feeling has changed. 

"Possibly, at the age of 20, I was romantic and had not experienced much family life," Nga said. "I still like the play, but not Thúy. I don’t like the innocence that breaks her family".

Version 2: Artists Lee Eun Son (Thúy) and Son In Chan (Thúy’s husband) in the Korean version. Photos Nguyễn Bình

People’s Artist Lê Khanh performs Thúy’s character well after a long break. The first time she acted Thúy, she tried to make herself older to match the character’s age.

Khanh was born into a traditional art family. Her maternal grandfather, Lê Đại Thanh, is a poet and playwright.  Her parents are People’s Artist Trần Tiến and Meritorious Artist Lê Mai.

Khanh’s skilful acting expressed the emotional fragility of the character. Her performance was truly fantastic, convincing spectators that Thúy’s character was more sinned against than a sinner. The tragedy is Thúy’s death because she cannot bear her husband’s detachment and suffers great misery. 

The new version is shortened to about one hour aiming at performing the two versions in one evening. However, the Korean version has a different ending. Jigeum Drama Troupe director and actress Lee Eun Son is the play editor and performs Thúy’s character. 

"When I edited the script, I got to know more about Vietnamese women," said the actress. "It is not a Vietnamese story, but a global issue around human beings. In Korea housewives aged 40 - 50 need more attention from their relatives because their psycho-physiology has changed much. 

Thúy, by actress Lee, is stronger than Thúy by actress Khanh. She has an extra choice, to confront tremendous emotional upheaval to be herself again.

The ending of the Korean version is open to allow audiences to make their own choice. Thúy can stay and continue to live with her husband, or she accepts it’s time to begin her new life.

"Each audience would have their own way of solving problems in their emotional lives. I believe that every family has problems that cannot be solved overnight," Lee said. 

The Korean version is more colourful with Korean songs performed by singer Shin Yong Nam. He also appeares on stage during the performance playing guitar and singing.

Far-away Destination was performed at Bupyeong Art Centre’s Dalnuri Theatre in Incheon City in September with two versions and was received warmly by Korean audiences.

It is an art and culture co-operation project between the two theatres on celebration of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relationship between Việt Nam and  South Korea. — VNS