Traditional puppet show on the water

International programme
9 June 2023Friday
Central Park of culture and leisure

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (Vietnam)

Artistic Director – Chan Thi Hien

In collaboration with the Chekhov International Theatre Festival and Regional Public Foundation "Chekhov Festival Fund"

Duration – 50 minutes without an intermission

Water puppet shows have existed in Vietnam for over a thousand years, and are regarded as a phenomenon of Vietnamese and world culture. Despite its venerable age and many historical vicissitudes, this genre has survived in its original form to this day. It is a distinctive kind of art, full of inimitable charm, and also a fascinating experience, immersing viewers in an atmosphere of mystery.

In some village on the lower Red River near Hanoi local peasants, in order to kill time during the rainy season, have invented their own puppet show. Lakes, ponds or flooded fields were used as a stage, and scarecrows served as puppets. The main character is the boy Teu, which means "laughter". For a thousand years he, in his red loincloth, has ridden onto the stage on his trusty mule. Teu is the ringleader in all games, the jester and the storyteller. He reads out verse, dances, approves of the good folk, and ridicules the evil-doers.

Every show is a series of short genre scenes of country life wherein, for all its prosaic routine, there is a place for giant dragons breathing fire, unicorns, firebirds and wise golden turtles, the main characters of Vietnamese lore. Life in all its dimensions is reflected in a single performance.

Thang Long is the most famous water puppet theatre, founded over half a century ago. Every year it presents about 500 performances attended by more than 150,000 Vietnamese and foreign spectators.