The third International Experimental Theatre Festival is scheduled for November 12-19 in Hanoi. It has been ten years since the second festival was held in Vietnam. Despite having been established for a long time, Vietnamese theatre has not exactly flourished; meanwhile the world arts have strongly developed compared to the domestic arts.
Vietnam National Drama Theatre, with the play 'Hamlet', will join the third International Experimental Theatre Festival.
People’s Artist Le Tien Tho, Chairman of Vietnam Stage Artists’ Association granted an interview to Nhan Dan Monthly and shared his thoughts on the development of national theatre.
World experimental theatre develops far from Vietnam
Q: The third International Experimental Theatre Festival received an enthusiastic response from many countries in the world, creating a playground for domestic theatre workers to learn from the world arts. Being a juryman who directly selects the plays for the festival, how do you assess the international arts troupes?
A: The world experimental theatre has developed on a much larger scale than the Vietnamese arts. Nowadays, actors and actresses are no longer the centre of the stage, however the space of the stage has opened up considerably. So much so, that many arts troupes are capable of performing anywhere with or without a stage. Instead, they use electronic techniques to set the stage, contributing to the success of the play.
I was really impressed with a play by a Hungarian arts troupe. Only one actor and one actress performed inside of a plastic bag in order to feature the love of a couple through their body language.
In a rendition of ‘Hamlet’ put on by a German troupe, one characters thoughts of existence and non-existence was able to convey the spirit of Shakespeare. Chinese artists introduce Vietnamese audiences to the familiar piece ‘White Snake’. LED screen and new techniques make the story more sacred and whimsical.
Q: In comparison with the rest of the world, Vietnamese theatre seems to be stagnant, behind the times. What do you think about this?
A: The recent entertainment spectacle entitled ‘Ionah’ by Star Galaxy Theatre had interesting innovations. For example, the puppetry show ‘Hon Truong Ba, da hang thit’ (Truong Ba's Soul in Butcher's Skin) not only brought audiences to performances of water and rod puppets but also featured the appearance of actors and actresses, creating a new special space. In the drama, in addition to dialogue, artists used other forms of language to portray the plays’ content.
However, the world theatre has been renovated more rapidly and strongly than Vietnamese theatre, particularly in utilising modern electronic techniques to express emotion and make the scenery more fanciful. Moreover, in many art forms, artists use masks to minimise the appearance of people.
Q: In your opinion, how will this festival affect the development of experimental theatre in Vietnam?
A: In the world, there are many annual theatrical festivals, including several experimental theatre festivals. We can see that the trend of experimental theatre in the world has developed strongly. For example, in Asia, traditional theatrical forms, images and body language are used more frequently, instead of dialogues, in order to convey messages.
The first and second international experimental festivals were held in 2002 and 2006. With many arts forms, such as puppetry, circus and drama, this year's festival is expected to create a playground for Vietnamese theatre to approach social life as well as promote Vietnamese culture to the world.
Q: Could you explain why Vietnamese theatre has yet to receive a makeover?
A: Vietnamese theatre is moving very slowly compared to the world, even though the Vietnamese Theatrical Artists' Association has organised several theatrical campaigns. However, the selected oustanding scripts have not been adapted due to difficulties in finance and human resources.
Over the past 10 years, Vietnam Tuong (Traditional Opera) Theatre has co-ordinated with France's Monte-Charge Theatre to create a script entitled 'Mua lua' (Season of rice), about the 'destiny' of Vietnamese rice over generations. It is a great script that is imbued with Vietnamese cultural identities; however, the Vietnam Stage Artists' Association did not have enough money to support the project.
Need to support younger artists
Q: This year's festival features the participation of numerous familiar artists, such as People's Artists Le Hung and Anh Tu but lacked a number of young faces. What do you think about this?
A: We hoped younger artists and authors, such as Bui Thanh Le and Dao Kim Oanh, who are very enthusiastic with experimental projects, would participate in the festival. However, possibly due to conflicts of schedule or not have enough money to adapt play scripts, they were unable to participate.
I can feel the passion of younger artists for experimental theatre. We tried to create favourable conditions for them to join the campaign in order to gain more experiences in creating experimental theatrical works.
Q: There are also many young directors who did not rely on support from the State and found their own path like Nguyen Phi Phi Anh. What do you think about them?
A: Nguyen Phi Phi Anh is a young director who dares to think and dares to do. The young artists' works will make cultural life in the country richer.
Currently, we are forming a fund to support young theatrical artists. In developed countries, enterprises provide a huge of money in aid for this kind of fund, supporting hundreds of works per year. In order to create opportunities for young Vietnamese faces to develop their career, the fund should have at least VND20 billion. Meanwhile in Vietnam, there are not many donors paying attention to this fund. I am trying to launch the Fund for 'Preserving and Developing Theatrical Arts' later this year.
Q: Currently, many young artists created daring experiments that go beyond traditional norms. How to keep traditional cultural identities while applying new things?
A: We should set out the cretia for experiments, includiing not loosing traditional identities. The conventions of traditional theatrical arts can be maintained through electronic techniques of LED screen.
The combination between traditional style and modern visual arts, such as electornic techniques and body language, requires a lot of time and money; therefore, new ideas and experiments need to receive great support from managers and enterprises.