Life bursts on stage

A decade on, the artistic show “My Village” remains as popular as ever for its recreation of life in a Vietnamese village.

By Le Diem on June 08,2019 11:24 AM

Life bursts on stage

PHOTOS LUNE PRODUCTION

A decade on, more than 1,000 shows of “My Village” have been performed both in Vietnam and overseas.

Returning to Vietnam after many years abroad, Tuan Le, Nhat Ly, and Nguyen Lan Maurice nurtured a dream of spreading a story of a village in northern Vietnam to the world through an art show. In 2009, they introduced “My Village”, making their dream come true. It was the first show of its kind in Vietnam, with an unusual stage of bamboo. This year, their first “child” turns ten years old and has won a place in many hearts as a popular artistic story about life in the Vietnamese countryside.

The first scene begins with a rooster’s crow waking up farmers to prepare their plows, hoes, and baskets to work in the field; a typical scene on a countryside morning.

Bamboo was chosen as the only props and the main character, as it is found everywhere in the countryside and villages and is like a close friend of the people, according to the show’s director Tuan Le and creative director Nguyen Lan Maurice. They also wanted to create a space where the audience could imagine themselves in their own story and admire the beauty of art and culture. “This is the first time bamboo and rattan tools have been used in performances, not only in Vietnam but also in the world,” Tuan Le believes. “Bamboo items are normally used merely for decoration.”

With bamboo of different sizes, talented artists bring the lively lives of villages to the stage, from the first day of the country’s history, when people began building shelters. Bamboo was the main material, as it was easy to find and of good quality. House building took a lot of effort, but they did it all together with a smile and a song.

Getting through sunny days, storms, and floods together, the relationship between the villagers and bamboo became even tighter when the invaders came to Vietnam. Bamboo became a rampart as well as a weapon, made into sharp spikes or bows and arrows. Thanks to music director Nhat Ly, fierce battles with natural disasters and the enemy are recreated on stage, revealing a tough but proud period of the country and its people.

In peace time, bamboo is also present in the lives of villagers, like furniture and utensils in the home such as beds, tables and chairs, baskets, chopsticks, and ornaments, as well as farming tools in the fields, shoulder poles used by vendors at local markets or on the street, boats and bridges for fishing, water transport, and even romantic spots under the moon for dating. On days of leisure, weddings, funerals, or festivals, it also found in ceremonies, folk games, and art performances, turned into extraordinary musical instruments.

Work, daily life, and the religious beliefs of people from past to present is vibrantly depicted on stage by director Nhat Ly, with his skillful use of about 20 musical instruments from various locations around the country, like the monochord and 16 string zither from the north and the T’rung bamboo xylophone and drums from the central highlands, together with traditional singing, like northwestern folk songs, northern “quan ho” (female and male singers issuing musical challenges and responses) and “ca tru” (an ancient genre of chamber music), central highlands’ melodies, and southern “ho” (songs with alternating solo and chorus).

With music and acting and sensual choreography, however, “My Village” is neither a theatrical play nor a drama. It’s like of a combination of both, with circus added. And not a traditional circus but a modern version, according to the directors, featuring complex tricks such as acrobatics, contortions, trapeze, juggling, and rope walking, etc.

Life bursts on stage

While admiring how flexible performers can train their body for complex moves, sometimes the audience holds their breath as they perform dangerous moves like standing on each other on bamboo to a height of a few meters. But these young and skillful artists are expert in what they do and have never disappointed the audience in hundreds of shows.

They not only create exotic artistic scenes with bamboo but also express the beauty of young and fit Vietnamese men and women, who sometimes pull funny faces and moves to make the audience laugh.

Fruzsina Kovács, a tourist from Hungary, said the show helped her understand more about the Vietnamese countryside and the lives of farmers. “It’s interesting to see how people use bamboo in many parts of their work and life, which is a great example of people taking advantage of nature,” she said. “The show is quite beautiful and touching. I had a great night.”

Meanwhile, Eric Roache, an independent filmmaker from the US living in Vietnam, appreciated the creativity of using bamboo in the show. “I’m always into shows like this and have seen many. But this is the first time I’ve seen one with bamboo poles. It’s unique,” he said.

A decade on, more than 1,000 shows of “My Village” have been performed both in Vietnam and overseas, with over 300 tours to Europe and Asia, such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, China, and elsewhere. It was performed at the APEC CEO Summit Da Nang 2017 and represented Vietnamese culture at the Perth Art Festival Australia 2019, where it was one of biggest ticket sellers, according to Lune Production, the entertainment company staging “My Village”.

Following its success, its “brothers and sisters” came out later under the creativity and hard work of the directors, portraying typical paintings of different regions of the country, including the A O Show depicting Mekong Delta charm, The Mist Show with southern Vietnamese farming life, the Palao Show with Cham spirit and culture, and the Teh Dar Show, venturing into the tribal world of Vietnamese highlanders.

Thanks to such shows, beautiful stories of Vietnamese life and rich culture in the countryside will continue to be told to following generations and the world, like the lullaby the father sings to his child at the end of “My Village”.

My Village

PERFORMANCES:

6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The schedule may change every month.

DURATION: 60 minutes

VENUES:

Hanoi Opera House: 1 Trang Tien St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi

Hanoi Tuong Vietnam Theater: 51A Duong Thanh St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi

TICKETS: VND700,000 - 2.1 million

WEBSITE: www.luneproduction.com

 

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