On the sidewalk of Dong Khoi Boulevard in Ben Tre City under Ben Tre Province is a water pool placed next to the headquarters of a bank. The pool acts as a stage for water puppetry shows.
When a puppet play reaches a climax, children run forward to clearly watch the puppetry performance.
Over the past few months, Le Kim Nhu’s two children, who reside in Ben Tre City, had always asking her to take them to watch whenever the city hosted puppetry shows.
Nhu’s eldest daughter incidentally saw a water puppetry show in Ho Chi Minh City a few years ago, and became a fan of the art.
However, water puppetry is not popular in the Mekong Delta region, so Nhu was not able to take her daughter to a puppet show for a second time, until July this year when the Dua Xanh water puppetry troupe was formed in Ben Tre.
“During this summer, many schools cut deals with the Dua Xanh water puppetry troupe to hold shows for students,” said Pham Tan Vu, manager of the grouping.
“Most of the schools were satisfied with the performances and asked for more puppet shows.”
The idea of establishing the troupe blossomed over 10 years ago, but it was scrapped due to financial woes later on.
In recent years, Vu and some puppeteers rolled up their sleeves again and debuted the troupe to mark the 200th birthday of Vietnamese poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu in July.
Aside from practicing the skills of using puppets and rehearsing for puppetry shows, the 10-member group is moving toward forming several skits on Ben Tre Province’s characteristics such as the lifetime of Nguyen Dinh Chieu.
“I do like duck puppets as they are very lovely,” Da Ly, eight, who lives in Chau Thanh District in Ben Tre Province, expressed excitement after watching a puppet show.
Nguyen Quoc Hung, Da Ly’s father, watched a water puppet show for the first time during his extracurricular activities when he was studying at a university in Ho Chi Minh City more than 10 years ago.
He has been completely bewitched by the art ever since.
“After I had a child, I always wanted to take my child to a water puppet show once. I’m so happy that our province now has a water puppetry troupe,” Hung said.
Khong Thi Phuong Thuy, a representative of Ben Tre Elementary School, said the school organized five water puppetry shows for 1,700 students during this year’s summer holiday.
Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with water puppets
The Thang Long puppetry theater in Hanoi has recently introduced an art show with a combination of land puppetry, water puppetry, and actors’ onstage performance with puppets.
Themed 'The Journey of Chu Cuoi and Chi Hang,' the performance will be shown for children on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 10.
The show is set to mark the reopening of the theater after a two-year pause due to COVID-19 and will act as a gift for children during the festival, said Thanh Hien, director of the theater.
Hien told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the pandemic prevented the theater from being open to international guests. Therefore, the venue wrote various plays and prepared numerous exciting programs to serve the local audience, while carrying out promotions to attract guests.
As a result, the number of domestic visitors to the theater rose sharply.
The Thang Long puppetry theater is currently one of the nation’s theaters with the most shows, with two a day on weekdays and three a day on weekends.
As a director of the 'The Journey of Chu Cuoi and Chi Hang' play, Duc Hung, deputy head of the theater, said that the gig will be extremely interesting and colorful, featuring countless traditional folk games during the Mid-Autumn Festival, such as lantern parades, lion dances, dragon dances, drum performances, and hand puppetry.
Furthermore, many hit songs, aside from traditional music, will be played during the show to satisfy young audiences.
The 'The Journey of Cuoi and Miss Hang' show will be hosted in many cities and provinces across the country after kicking off in the capital city.