Vietnamese Cheo Shines on International Stage

For the first time in the history of participating in the Asian Theater Schools Festival (ATEC), held in Beijing, China, the Vietnamese troupe won the prize for top play and two awards for excellent actors.
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Meritorious Artist Bui Nhu Lai, Vice Principal of Hanoi University of Theater and Cinema, returned from Beijing, China, where he attended the 7th Asian Theater Schools Festival (ATEC) in the last days of May and early June. He said the school was chosen to represent Vietnamese theater.

This year's ATEC theme is "The Charm of Traditional Asian Theater", and the school brought the play named "Like Falling Raindrops" - a play with a unique style, influenced by traditional chèo art but filled with the breath of contemporary theater to the stage.

Vietnamese Cheo Shines on International Stage
Hanoi University of Theater and Cinema brings the play named "Like Falling Raindrops" to the stage. (Photo: People's Army Newspaper)

The story revolves around three main characters, including Thi Mau, Thi Kinh, and Suy Van, all of whom have tragic and troubled lives. All three characters are young, passionate women who are constrained by social norms and family expectations. The play "Like Falling Raindrops" uses complicated events and storylines to create a multidimensional performance space, combining tradition and contemporary to deliver a meaningful message about freedom, the right to choose, and women's right to self-determination.

At the 7th ATEC, the play "Like Falling Raindrops" was performed on a three-sided stage in the Theater of the Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, China. With a simple stage layout, director Bui Nhu Lai focused on using the rowing mat as a highlight and a prop throughout the play, highlighting the story details of various characters. Besides, artists use the chèo mat to present traditional Vietnamese chèo art as well as Vietnamese folk culture to international audiences.

"The use of chèo music, one of the key components of chèo theater art, has led to a traditional stage space imbued with Vietnamese culture. With a chèo orchestra made up of a full set of wind instruments, strings, and percussion instruments, I have harmoniously combined them so that the musicians not only accompany singing, serve as background for scenes, and create dramatic situations, but also open the show, in which the musicians have become the main performers present throughout the stage. The musical start and end of the play, as well as the movement of the musicians on stage, created a quiet following the climax, the intricate interior developments of the play's key characters,” shared Meritorious Artist Bui Nhu Lai.

The play illustrates the tragic fate of ancient women who were trapped and suffering as a result of oppressive feudal rites, while also telling the story of women's relentless pursuit of their aspirations, which included pursuing genuine love and independence.

After watching the play, Chinese and international audiences stayed in the auditorium to interact with the troupe, expressing their love for the play "Like Falling Raindrops". Simultaneously, they expressed a lot of interest in the ideas and methods of staging plays, especially the issue: How to effectively present traditional theatrical works on a modern stage, and how to bring traditional theater with a contemporary breath closer to modern audiences.

The play's great reception by the international audience illustrates the current public's exceptional interest in Vietnamese traditional theater in particular, and world traditional theater in general.

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