As my mind turns to flying to Vietnam tomorrow, with 50 students, on a CAS trip, I started to think about performance in that beautiful country. Many months ago I wrote about the traditional Water Puppet theatre for which Vietnam is very famous. I don’t imagine there is a visitor who has ever been to Hanoi who has not been to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theate to see a performance – I will be there again tomorrow night.
However, there is another theatre form that is very popular in Vietnam and that is Cai Luong, which roughly translated means renovated or reformed theatre. The Water Puppet theatre has its roots firmly in Vietnamese rice farming culture, but Cai Luong is an interesting mixture of East and West theatrical traditions, having being heavily influenced by the French during their rule in Vietnam. Essentially, Cai Luong is the convergence of southern Vietnamese folk songs, classical music, tuong (a Chinese-based classical theatre form) and modern spoken drama, all coming together to create folk opera.
There is a great little website, called, not suprisingly, Vietnam Opera, that has much more background and you can access that by clicking the image below:
Also on this site are pages about two other, more traditional, Vietnamese Opera forms, Tuong and Cheo that are more ‘Classical’ in their nature (and more serious in their themes and content). Cai Luong has a reputation for being lighter and more comic. Perhaps what is most astonishing of all is that unlike many traditional theatre forms across Asia, Cai Luong is thriving, growing in popularity and although some of this growth is driven by tourism, it has huge appeal to the Vietnamese too. There are even some instances of the traditional dress and costume being swapped for more contemporary clothing.
I leave you with a video of a full length performance of Cai Luong titled The Life of Buddah