Singapore Director Chua Soo Pong: Many inspirations with Vietnam theatre
At the Hanoi Opera House, Vietnamese audiences have enjoyed the ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ play, which has been adapted from one of the four great classical novels of China. The play was performed by artists from the Vietnam National Drama Theatre for the first time, with staging by Singaporean director Chua Soo Pong.
Director Chua Soo Pong (source: NDO)
Previously, the director has been awarded with the Medal ‘For a Cause of Culture, Sports and Tourism’ by Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. On the occasion, Director Chua Soo Pong granted an interview to Thoi Nay (Present Time) reporter Ho Hung.
Q: Can you share with us what brought you to Vietnamese theatre?
A: In 1978, when I was a graduate student in the UK, I had the opportunity to meet late Professor Tran Van Khe. At the first meeting, we talked for four hours on various art topics. He gave me intense inspiration to understand your culture and art. From then on, I was in contact with great Vietnamese artists, who continued to inspire me to seek an opportunity to work in Vietnam.
Q: What is it about Vietnamese theatre that makes you so passionate?
A: Your country has rich theatre with a long history. You have dedicated artists and young artistic talents. All of that brings me a long-lasting pleasure of working here.
Q: What is the difference when you work on the stage in Vietnam compared with other countries?
A: I have worked as a director in China, Japan, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Cyprus and Norway. The interesting point for me is that when working in different countries, I find more similarities than differences.
Q: When working on stages in Vietnam, do you have any difficulties?
A: I want to learn Vietnamese in order to communicate better with the artists. However, many young artists know English and they do not speak Vietnamese to me (laughs). Another difficulty is that many of the stages in Vietnam are not well equipped. Sometimes it is very difficult to design the lighting as I would like.
Director Chua Soo Pong instructs Vietnamese artists (source: VNE)
Q: Why did you choose ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ to set the stage in this collaboration?
A: I have adapted India’s classic works such as ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mababharata’, or Indonesia’s folk work ‘Panji’ to serve the audience in several countries. I think introducing classic works to young audiences is very important for theatre. I also wish to set the scene for Vietnam’s work ‘Truyen Kieu’ (The Tale of Kieu) on the stages in other countries. The collaborative works will promote understanding and cultural exchanges.
Q: Can you share some interesting memories in the process of working with artists?
A: I have worked with artists from many theaters and taught at the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema. With students, they always bring me a feeling of happiness and youthfulness. They invited me to lunch and asked what food I wanted. I asked for the fish but they excitedly brought me the chicken, because I mispronounced the name of the food (laughs).
The artist also gave me many beautiful memories. Once, after a concert in Ho Chi Minh City, the artists arrived in Hanoi at 9.30 pm. They should have gone home, but when they knew I had just arrived in Hanoi, they came to the hotel to welcome me and invited me to coffee. I am really touched by their feelings towards me.
Q: After ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, do you have new plans for the Vietnam stage?
A: Next year, Vietnam and Singapore will celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties. On the occasion, I am working with artists from the two countries and will perform a collaborative work in public.
Thank you so much for the interview!
Director Chua Soo Pong is the founding director of the Chinese Opera Institute (COI) of Singapore. He is an artist, director, screenwriter, scholar, and veteran researcher in the field of Asian theater. He is also the co-founder of a number of theatrical associations, such as the ASEAN Puppetry Association, the Asian Dance Association and the Asia-Pacific Dance Association. He has been teaching at art universities in Singapore, China, the Republic of Korea, and Vietnam, and initiated many art cooperation projects in various Asian countries. His plays and screenplays have been introduced to audiences in 30 countries. For Vietnam, he has participated in the jury of International Experimental Theater Festival in Hanoi, and helped the Vietnam National Tuong Theatre to arrange a work entitled Duoi Bong Da Huyen Thoai (The Legendary Banyan Tree). The performance was staged at Pohang International Performing Arts Festival in Pohang, the Republic of Korea in August and will be introduced to the Canadian public in 2018.
( VNF/NDO )