Stages ready to light up again

As soon as Hanoi eased social dístancing rules, many art units have begun to urgently plan stage plays to serve the public when conditions permit.

A performance at the art programme held by the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre to mark the 67th anniversary of the capital's Liberation Day. (Photo: TUAN DUC/NDO)
A performance at the art programme held by the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre to mark the 67th anniversary of the capital's Liberation Day. (Photo: TUAN DUC/NDO)

In addition to reproducing scripts that still have high value, many new programmes and artworks are also being completed.

After the Vietnam Theatre Artists’ Association officially released the play “A Cup of Poison” in early October, artists from the Vietnam National Drama Theatre, the Youth Theatre, and the Hanoi Cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera) Theatre as well as students from the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema began to practice.

This is the first time the artists from so many units have collaborated on a play to celebrate the 100th founding anniversary of the national stage industry. A century ago (on October 22, 1921), the play “A Cup of Poison” by playwright Vu Dinh Long (1896-1960) was performed at the Hanoi Opera House, confirming the attraction of the first play written by the Vietnamese and marking the official birth of Vietnamese drama.

Featuring a story about the family of Thong Thu, a Westernised bourgeois family deeply caught up in the evils and temptations of colonial urban society, the play criticised and strongly warned of a hedonistic and irresponsible lifestyle.

As the director, Meritorious Artist Bui Nhu Lai said this reproduction still kept the spirit and structure of the script but bore the rhythms of contemporary life. The participation of famous and veteran artists such as People’s Artists Viet Thang and Trung Hieu, Meritorious Artists Trinh Mai Nguyen and Hoai Thu, along with many young talents including Viet Hoa, Duy Anh and Khuat Quynh Hoa, promised to promote the attractiveness of a play that has a special position in the Vietnamese stage. “A Cup of Poison” is expected to be introduced to the public at the end of October 2021 when the epidemic is under control.

During this time, after recording the plays "Trung than” (The Liegeman) and “Vo Tam Tu tram cao” (Vo Tam Tu offers beheading indictment) and “Trieu Dinh Long cuu chua” (Trieu Dinh Long saves Lord), the Vietnam Tuong (classical drama) Theatre has prepared several excerpts for a programme to promote this traditional art form to young audiences.

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A scene from the play "Trung than". (Photo: Vietnam Tuong Theatre)

Meanwhile, beside practicing the plays for the 2021 National Drama Festival, artists from the Youth Theatre are continuing to perfect the staging of the musical play entitled “Cuoc chien virus” (The fight against the virus) to serve children. Reflecting the story about the lives of animals in the face of a cruel virus, the play conveys many educational messages of the importance of vaccines, the power of solidarity and the high sense of determination to fight against the epidemic.

Also serving young audiences, Thang Long Puppetry Theatre is producing a series entitled “The gioi cua chung em” (Our World) for Christmas and New Year. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Circus Federation has recorded the circus play “Biet doi sieu anh hung giai cuu” (Superhero Rescue Squad) that is being broadcast under the the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and is focusing on five performances for the tourism stimulation programme of Quang Ninh Province expected to take place in November in Ha Long.

The Federation has also cooperated with the Vietnam Cai Luong (Vietnamese reformed opera) Theatre to continue to stage the play "Thuong Thien Thanh Mau" (Mother Goddess of Heaven), the second work under the project “Huyen su Viet” (Vietnamese legendary history). It has exploited the strength of the languages in Cai Luong and circus. The leaders from the two units said that during this time, each side has been upping their assigned workload and they will finalise the last stages as soon as the epidemic is under control. The play is expected to debut in early December 2021.

Regarding the socialised stage, some art troupes has been actively preparing to launch new artworks. The Le Ngoc stage will release the play “Nuoc mat cua me” (Mother’s Tears). Choreographer Tuyet Minh and about 150 dancers nationwide are also rushing to complete the dance series “Anh sang tam hon” (The Light of the Soul) for a virtual show on October 20, aiming to express gratitude to the frontline forces in the fight against the pandemic.

Following a long time away from the spotlight, the return of performances is an indescribable happiness for artists. People's Artist Tong Toan Thang, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Circus Federation noted that the fight against COVID-19 will be prolonged, so performing arts must also find a way to safely adapt to the pandemic. It is crucial to set a common set of criteria and regulations on welcoming audiences to the stage.

Accordingly, specific requirements on controlling organisers, artists and viewers; limiting the maximum number of audiences based on the performance space. On this basis, art units can take initiative in planning and organising safe performances.

Moreover, after nearly two years of being seriously affected by the pandemic, the financial resources for the art units are almost exhausted. In order to ensure their operations, theatres and art units hope they will receive more attention and support from state management agencies in ordering compositions, promoting and staging works, towards stabilising artists' lives.

According to many experts, even when the epidemic is under control, the public still has certain reservations regarding coming to live performances. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the promotion of theatrical products via online platforms. Deputy Director of the Performing Arts Department Le Minh Tuan said the performing arts industry will step by step move towards establishing websites and online broadcasting channels via technology platforms for paid programmes and performances to attract more audiences of all ages.

Translated by NDO