Nothing brings me more joy than when I learn about a culture through its folk art. Especially when it’s shared in such a fun way. That’s how I felt when I took my seat at the Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi and studied the watery stage and scrolling screen that served as the backdrop curtain for the show.
The lights dimmed and a few musicians entered the side of the stage. They began playing traditional Asian instruments while two singers soulfully sang of Vietnam.
Then marionettes dove through the curtain and the history of Vietnam — its fishing commerce, dragon lore, romances and power struggles — were choreographed through subtle puppet mastery. Often, two or four puppets were move in sync on a long bamboo pole under the water. The short tales of Vietnam’s history were conveyed through music and seemingly-simple puppet formations.
I was immediately entranced. I wished I had a child to bring to this magical water stage. The colors were so vibrant. The movements so fluid. The music so expressive. I’d booked a VIP ticket for $11 which put me in the first three rows of the show. It was worth every penny.
At the end of the show, the puppet masters emerged from the water. I clapped as much for the show as I did for the fact that they’d carried on this traditional art form for generations.
I left the theater with a better understanding of Vietnamese history and culture. Sometimes it’s these simple shows that convey history best; portrayed in such a way that even children understand it.
What kind of folk art do you like?