Soo…I went to a Vietnamese Water Puppet Theatre show…it was interesting…
Apologies in advance for the quality of the pictures but they were the best I could do and the best of whats left after I accidentally deleted a bunch of pictures from Vietnam! Grr technology sometimes..
As you can see the production is as it sounds- actual water puppet theatre. There is a small group to the left of the stage comprising a couple female vocalists and a small band. There is a screen located above them that translates what they are saying (somewhat badly!) so that you can understand what is going on.
The puppets emerge with a flourish from under the back curtain and proceed to dance and sing for most of the production. It started off focusing on a couple who happen upon each other while walking one day, who then fall in love, procreate (with gutso on stage!) and birth ten spontaneous babies who appear energetically with a loud pop out of the water. Hilarious.
There are many other characters involved as well ranging from beautiful birds and dragons that float elegantly through the water, to a group of Vietnamese farmers hard at work on their land. It’s hard to explain the entire plot/story…let’s just say its entertaining!
Vietnamese water puppet theatre originated in the rivers of Northern Vietnam around the 11th century. Quite fitting using water as a stage what with all the ponds and monsoon season flooded rice paddies! The stories are usually set in rural areas and revolve around the daily tasks and lives of those characters.
The show was quite unlike anything I’ve seen previously! The singers would interact with the puppets from time to time and all members involved seem to be enjoying themselves. The performances were energetic all round- not least of all the puppets!
The puppet masters eventually emerged in their grand finale and paraded around onstage with their puppets to triumphant applause and loud music. It was surprising to see how many of them there really were hiding behind those curtains!
The experience overall was well worthwhile and is a popular thing to do in Vietnam. Water Puppet Theatre companies are located in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh/Saigon. The production I saw was at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi. I would recommend getting your tickets early as they sell out usually the day before! Enjoy!