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Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre – Hanoi

Thang Long water puppet theatre is located at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem Lake. The theater was established in October 1969. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was established in 1969 and is one of the most famous water puppet theatre in Vietnam.

Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.

Modern water puppetry is performed in a pool of water 4 meters square with the water surface being the stage.
Up to 8 puppeteers stand behind a split-bamboo screen, decorated to resemble a temple facade, and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The puppets are carved out of wood and often weigh up to 15 kg.

Rice, the main staple of the Vietnamese diet, grows in a water paddy. The original water puppet festivals were literally held inside a rice paddy, with a pagoda built on top to hide the puppeteers who stand in the waist-deep water. The water acts as the stage for the puppets, and as a symbolic link to the rice harvest.

A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music accompaniment. The instrumentation includes vocals, drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, Đàn bầu (monochord), gongs, and bamboo flutes. The bamboo flute’s clear, simple notes may accompany royalty while the drums and cymbals may loudly announce a fire-breathing dragon’s entrance.

Singers of chèo (a form of opera originating in north Vietnam) sing songs which tell the story being acted out by the puppets. The musicians and the puppets interact during performance; the musicians may yell a word of warning to a puppet in danger or a word of encouragement to a puppet in need.
The puppets enter from either side of the stage, or emerge from the murky depths of the water.
Spotlights and colorful flags adorn the stage and create a festive atmosphere.
The theme of the skits is rural and has a strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. It tells of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales that are told by grandparents to their grandchildren. Stories of the harvest, of fishing and of festivals are highlighted.
Legends and national history are also told through short skits. Many of the skits, especially those involving the tales of day-to-day living, often have a humorous twist.
Chú Tễu (literally uncle comedian, buffoon, joker) is a typical puppet in Vietnamese water puppetry. Tễu is bigger than other puppets. This character usually introduces the performance and makes humorous actions for the audience.
The show is performed on all days of the week with 5 shows: 15h00, 16h10, 17h20, 18h30, 20h00



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