Puppets Popular Again in Ho Chi Minh City

Shadow Play in China which inspired Vietnam own shadow theatre (Source: Museumbento.com)

The once slowly dying puppetry art is currently enjoying a revival in Ho Chi Minh City, according to local authorities. A welcome change for travellers who now can have the opportunity to enjoy and discover South Vietnam puppet art. 

Phuong Nam Art Theatre, for example, recently renovated its two circuses in Go Vap district’s Gia Dinh Park and District 11’s Lu Gia residential area.Construction of the two circuses is expected to be completed by November to meet the schedule of the National Circus Festival held in HCM City later this year, told to local media Award Artist Nguyen Duc The, Director of the Phuong Nam Art Theatre.

Poor sound and lighting are among the significant challenges that the theatre has encountered, together with a lack of human resources. During the two locations’ maintenance period, circus and puppetry shows are still being performed via small tours held locally and in neighbouring areas,” stressed Nguyen Duc The.

On the occasion of Mid-Autumn Festival and the International Puppetry Festival in Hanoi in October, the theatre will stage new puppetry plays. Plays are performed with shadow puppetry, a traditional form of art that has not been performed regularly in Vietnm. Shadow puppet theatre is a typical art form originated from India and which is regularly showcased in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. Vietnam shadow theatre mixes the influence of Southeast Asian shadow puppetry with the ones also being performed in China.

Shadow theatre in Ho Chi Minh City

On a different note, the first Viet Nam Puppetry Festival is being held on HCM City’s Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street between August 16 and 18.

The event, directed by Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Vuong Duy Bien, aims to preserve and bring puppetry art closer to the general public and international tourists. “Nguyen Hue street is a beautiful, open venue to hold the festival,” Bien said, hoping that it will be an annual event.

There will be a main stage performing both water and regular puppetry and five small stages for rod string and other puppets. Other types of arts will also be performed during the event.

The event has attracted participation of artists from the Viet Nam Puppetry Theatre, Phuong Nam Art Theatre, Hai Phong Puppetry Theatre, Canh Dieu Art Theatre, and Dong Nai Contemporary Art Theatre, among others. Many children with disadvantaged backgrounds have been invited to join the opening night, organisers said.

HCM City authorities have also approved construction of a new multi-purpose theatre with 2,000 seats at Lu Gia residential area in District 11. The new theatre will be equipped with international, modern facilities where chairs can be hidden to expand the performance grounds, depending on the type of performance. The estimated construction cost is US$64 million according to authorities.