Monday, 19 May 2014

Hanoi's Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre (Nhà hát Múa rối Thăng Long)

Right after visiting the Ba Đình Square, we were brought to the Nhà hát Múa rối Thăng Long (Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre) in Hanoi to watch their famed water puppet show. This is their showcase of Vietnamese water puppetry, traditionally performed in padi fields.

Initially, we had some reservations about having to sit through the whole performance at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, especially since we were all very tired from our flight from Kuala Lumpur and discovering that the show would take about an hour to complete. But basically, we were all quite tired and wanted to go check into the hotel.

Much to our surprise, the show came out all right. Quite entertaining, in fact, despite not understanding all the singing in the Vietnam language. But even without understanding their language, we could more or less follow the flow of the singing which was narrating the folk history of the Vietnamese people.

The part of most interest to me featured the legend of the turtle lake, how their national hero had received a sword from the gods in the lake and used it to defeat his enemies.

And then one day after peace had returned to the land and while on his boat on the lake, a huge turtle emerged to grab the sword and return it to the gods.

The water puppetry performance is played out in a huge sloping auditorium with a four metre-by-four metre square stage which was a pool filled with water until waist deep.

At the side of the auditorium sat the orchestra and singers. Behind the pool were curtains were the hidden puppet masters who would manouevre the puppets fitted on poles held beneath the water surface.

Knowing how much resistance there is when trying to move objects within the water, this can be quite a strenuous task indeed. And yet, the puppet masters went about it quite effortlessly. Very impressive indeed.

Lights were dimmed during the performance and photography was very difficult. So unfortunately, I don't have many pictures to share here.

Our tour guide informed us that the water puppet show was one of the highlights of any trip to Hanoi. He said that it was often full house at each performance - about five per day - and unless one wants to take chances with buying tickets on the spot, he recommended that tickets be bought in advance.

No comments: