Lives & Legends

The ‘Fishermen Show’ has been shining brightly on stage in Mui Ne, Phan Thiet for more than a year, showcasing the culture of local fishing villagers.

By Ngoc Linh on April 09,2018 09:41 AM

Lives & Legends

Photos provided by Lang Chai Theatre

The ‘Fishermen Show’ being held at the Lang Chai (Fishing Village) Theatre in Mui Ne, Phan Thiet in south-central Binh Thuan province, which seats up to 1,200 people, is a state-of-the-art program displaying the cross-cultural values of the Kinh and Cham ethnic communities, with the Kinh’s cultural tradition of celebrating the Whale God and the Cham’s celebration of the Kate Festival. The show is performed by local artists and dancers.

Village legend

The inspiration for the Fishermen Show came from events in the fishing village in 1762, when Van Thuy Tu Temple was built to worship the spirit of a whale whose body drifted into Phan Thiet’s waters and was then honoured as a ‘Whale God’ by local people. Its soul turned into a young fisherman, according to legend, who understood the hardships of the villagers and so supported them and saved their lives when they were in danger at sea.

The worship of the ‘South Sea General’ (the Whale) at Van Thuy Tu Temple ends with local people expressing their belief in the protection from the god as well as the mother sea, and their wish for prosperity and happiness in the dry, sunny and windy land of Phan Thiet, where they live happily and help each other in everyday activities.

The young fisherman crosses all boundaries of time and space and empathises with the hardships and simplicity of the lives of local people. He then gets lost and finds himself in a Cham village, where he sees the old Poshanu Tower and enjoys the songs and dances worshipping the Goddess Shiva.

He was overjoyed with his love for a young Cham girl at Mui Ne sand dunes and at the Kate Festival, with its pleasing sounds of ginang drums and the saranai flutes. He was deeply moved by the plaintive voice of a woman waiting and wishing good fortune for her husband during his risky fishing trips in stormy weather, and so decided to do what he could to protect all the local fishermen.

The stage is set out like a miniature of Phan Thiet. The director and the choreographer have managed to pack into the show all the features and daily activities of local people, such as pulling up fishing nets, fishing in a basket boat, salt farming, and cultural and traditional celebrations like the Whale God worshipping and the Kate Festival, and also depicts the local sand dunes. All appear in different scenes during the 60-minute show. To make it easier for visitors to understand, subtitles are shown at the foot of the stage in Vietnamese, English and Russian.

The Fishermen Show attracts hundreds of people to each performance, due to the talent and skills of the entire group, including the director, the scriptwriter, and the choreographer. ‘The musicians, artisans, artists, dancers and performance equipment are almost all from Phan Thiet,’ said Tran Ngoc Dung, CEO of Seagull and owner of the show. ‘The cultural features and beliefs passed on from their ancestors over thousands of years are in their blood. Nearly half of the 40 performers of the show are of Cham ethnic origin.’

Lives & Legends

‘They understand the ideas and magnificently display the performances of the Cham dance and portray the daily activities of the coastal villagers in lively scenes on stage,’ he went on.

In addition to traditional musical instruments and singing, the scenes are made even more breath-taking by the use of modern equipment from Japan. Devices are programmed to depict activities in the fishing village, with hundreds of water fountains displayed using 2D and 3D technology. Thousands of LED lights in 256 colours intermittently create lighting effects matched with sound effects in different scenes, leaving an unforgettable impression on the audience. Scenes of farmers coming home on an ox-pulled cart, for example, often receive rapturous applause.

‘The musicians, artisans, artists, dancers and performance equipment are almost all from Phan Thiet,’

‘The musicians, artisans, artists, dancers and performance equipment are almost all from Phan Thiet,’

The show has been so successful thanks to the ‘magic’ skills of renowned choreographer Tran Ly Ly, who trained in Australia and France. She and the whole group worked hard for a year before their show’s opening night.

Mr Dung, the owner of the Fishermen Show, is a native of Phan Thiet. He was born in 1975 and had the highest score when accepted into the HCMC University of Economics in 1993. He also won a full scholarship from AusAid to study in Australia and then undertook a Master’s in Marketing at Lille University in France before returning to Vietnam to start a company.

His business was going well and he sold it to a Japanese company in 2012, when he then undertook Ph.D. studies in customer behaviour at the University of Paris 1-Sorbonne.

Mr Dung now runs a business in the US and one in Binh Thuan. He took out a 50-year lease of a 1.3-ha plot of land on the coast of Mui Ne and built Lang Chai Theatre for performances of the Fishermen Show, which are aimed at introducing the cross-cultural qualities of local people in Phan Thiet to domestic and international visitors.

‘I have been to different countries and I have seen lots of shows that display native cultures and attract large crowds, like on Broadway in New York, Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, the Song of the Sea and Wings of Time in Singapore, the Siam Pyramid shows in Thailand, and the Smile of Angkor show in Cambodia,’ he said. ‘Vietnam has a history of thousands of years with lots of cultural aspects and features, but we haven’t had a significant cultural show.’

He thought long and hard, cherishing a wish to do something for his country and especially his hometown of Phan Thiet. After four or five years of consideration, he came up with idea of the Fishermen Show, which introduces the cultural features of the fishing village of the Kinh people and the Cham village of the Cham ethnic people, living together in Phan Thiet.

The Fishermen Show is one of the three things he has spent a great deal of money on creating within an overall project entitled ‘Ban Sac Phan Thiet’ (Features of Phan Thiet). The project also includes a seafood corner on a large ship with a restaurant called Mui Ne Deli, opened in October 2017, and the Phan Thiet Fish Sauce Museum, which tells the story of the 200-year history of the cradle of Vietnam’s fish sauce industry and which opened early this year. The restaurant and the museum are both located right next to Lang Chai Theatre.

The Fishermen Show’s schedules are available at www.seagull.vn. Tickets range from VND200,000 to VND500,000.

Lang Chai Theatre

Nguyen Thong Roundabout, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan Province

Tel: 0901 111 666

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