As the name states, this is a performance using puppets and water. Puppet masters skillfully orchestrate string puppets though a set designed rice water paddy. The puppets come alive while their masters do the technical work behind the screen. Old stories and myths from the villages are played out to traditional music. It is an art form associated and known to Vietnam. This is a cultural highlight that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
The art form dates to the 11th century. Heavy rainfall meant some villages in Vietnam were flooded, leaving the rice paddies overflowing with water. To alleviate the depression caused by lost harvests, the farmers would make puppets and tell stories while standing in the rice paddies. These stories would be light-hearted and have humour, which would lift the mood of the local villagers.
As this venue is in the capital, the setting holds much more grandeur than the original performances form the Red River Delta. The arched, thatched backdrop encompasses the puppets and centres their actions and movements. The operatic traditional Vietnamese musicians sat the side provide the tempo for the stories to be played out. The puppeteers behind the screen master these stories to present and humorous and delightful version of puppetry.
There are several short stories performed in a one-hour show. Those who know Vietnam and its culture and history will know they must see one of these shows when in Hanoi.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is located at 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Tickets are 100,000vnd per person. There are 2-3 showings daily.