All The News That Fits

The Water Puppet Theater

Posted by Nancy on April 2, 2008

Everyone said we must go to the Water Puppet Theater and see the show.  So last night we went.   Ms. Lam got tickets for us, and the cost was 40,000 dong each.  That is about $3.

It is an easy walk from here, maybe a third of a mile, and this was the first time we had been out walking around after dark.  Hanoi was vibrant and beautiful after dark, even though some of the shops were already shuttered behind metal doors.  And BTW, these are not metal doors to cover the regular doors, they are like overhead garage doors that come down and cover the entire front of the shop.

The traffic was only slightly lighter than during the day, meaning we took our lives into our hands crossing the big intersection to get to the theater.

The show began with musicians dressed in traditional attire playing two numbers and singing, which is nothing like western singing.  I cannot tell you what the instruments were because none of them were anything I recognized.  There were rhythm instruments, a long-necked stringed instrument held like a guitar (probably some sort of lute), a flute of some sort that the musician played vigorously, and other instruments and musicians that were out of my line of vision.  Then there was the dan bau, which was obviously an important part of the ensemble.

Wikipedia refers to the dan bau as a monochord zither.  Whatever it is, it was amplified to be loud and sounded somewhat discordant to my western ears.  The woman playing it was accomplished, and had a great stage presence and grace while playing it.

The puppet show itself is put on in water about knee deep, with an elaborate background setting of a fancybuilding, with bamboo mats as the foundation.  The musicians continued to play and sing during the show, and narrated the action.  In Vietnamese, of course.

The puppets themselves were extended outward on long sticks from behind the bamboo mats.  There were people, dragons, ducks, imaginary birds, etc. in a series of vignettes telling short stories.  It was very different, and it was amazing how they got those puppets to interact on those sticks.  I’m sure we would have enjoyed it more if we could have understood the dialogue and known what was going on.

At the end of the show the puppeteers emerged from behind the bamboo mats, wading out for their applause.  There were ten of them, young men and women.

And Quinn?  He sat quietly through the whole thing, sometimes standing up to watch but usually just sitting happily in Matt’s lap.  He is a very good baby, and this bodes well for the flight home.

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