Hanoi-based puppet company founded in 1956 by Vietnamese artists. Ho Chi Minh brought Hanoi artists together with Czech trainers from the Radost puppet theatre, Loutkové divadlo Radost, to create a new tradition of Vietnamese puppetry. Performances by the Vietnam National Puppetry Theatre supported the educational and revolutionary goals of the government. Vietnamese artists in the 1960s were studying in Europe. Director Ngo Quynh Giao (b.1942) graduated from the Institute of Puppetry in Prague and vice-director Ms Dang Anh Nga (b.1944) studied in Prague with Stage Arts Institute from l967-1973. They led the company in the l990s, producing puppet theatre and running a school. The company is often called locally “Central Puppet Theatre” or, simply, “Central Theatre”. By the early 21st century, Vuong Duy Bien took over as director.
Since the l960s, the theatre’s educational performances have been presented all over the country. The company has been involved in international collaborations in training or performance with artists from Eastern Europe or, since the l980s, the United States and Western Europe. The company has a professional multi-year training programme. The company performs in schools and for the public.
Land and Water Puppets
While the company began by performing glove puppetry and rod puppetry, or “land puppetry”, by the l970s the company’s artists also wanted to explore indigenous roots. Artists of the Central Puppet Theatre studied with village water puppet troupes at Nguyen Xa and Nam Chan, villages in the Red River Delta, beginning in l972. That same year women began performing in the previously all male art of water puppetry as Nguyen Thi Chanh, from a family of traditional artists, joined the company. In l984, artists from the theatre took water puppets abroad with villagers from Nguyen Xa. By l991, company director Ngo Quynh Giao with his company moulded village water puppet practice into a new amalgam: larger figures were introduced, professional musicians joined the company, and a smoother flow from scene to scene was created to build toward the climax – a battle and the dance of the four sacred animals. This programme became the professional norm.
As Vietnam opened up to the world through the l980s and l990s, international tours of water puppetry from the company and their professional water puppet focused offshoot, Nhà Hát Múa Rối Thăng Long (Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre) directed by Le Van Ngo, became frequent.
In l993, Thang Long Theatre opened a permanent venue on Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Returned Sword) in Hanoi attracting local and foreign tourists. Other students of the Vietnam National Puppetry Theatre/Central Theatre school perform at various tourist venues in Saigon.
- Foley, Kathy. “The Metonomy of Art: Vietnamese Water Puppetry as a Representation of Modern Vietnam”. The Drama Review. Vol. XLV, No. 4, Winter 2001, pp. 129-141.
- “Vietnam [National] Puppetry Theatre” (Nha Hat Mua Roi Viet Nam). [In Vietnamese] http://www.vietnampuppetry.com/. Accessed 7 May 2012.