Vietnam National Puppet Theatre, Vietnamese Water Puppetry

Review in Issue 16-3/4 | Autumn 2004

The picturesque natural amphitheatre of the Royal Observatory Gardens in Greenwich Park at a warm summer’s dusk created a sense of magic, which the performance itself amply maintained. The staging: a large shallow pool, decorated as a tall traditional pagoda with bamboo screens shielding the eight puppeteers, contributed a sense of the exotic and arcane.

The performance consisted of eleven discrete scenes, each showcasing images of Vietnamese folklore or rural life, shaped to offer stories in miniature: the competitive play between two juvenile dragons, a fishing trip where the fish bit back, the love story of two phoenixes. An initial outline of the scenes by Teu, a traditional buffoon character, moved our focus from interpretation to simple enjoyment of the presentation. Delicate comedy and an astute awareness of spectacle informed each scene’s delivery, accompanied by a small orchestra of traditional musicians and phenomenal vocal accompaniment by a chorus of singers, making it easy for the audience to invest solely in the fantasy of the images: a rare emphasis in recent western traditions of puppetry.

This was very much an evening of spectacle, a consummate presentation of a fascinating artform – the free ticketing a remarkable opportunity for a very mixed audience to observe the work of a historic and expert company.

Presenting Artists

Royal Observatory Gardens

Date Seen
  1. Jul 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-3/4
p. 29