In May, Vietnam’s Tuong Theatre worked with Doctor Chua Soo Pong from Singapore to create Duoi Bong Da Huyen Thoai (Under the Legendary Banyan Tree). It has been performed in Hanoi throughout this summer at Hong Ha Theatre (also known as Vietnam’s Tuong Theatre), at 51A Duong Thanh street.
This collaboration is part of the theatre’s efforts to increase cultural exchanges and to integrate with ASEAN countries as well as other countries around the world.
The script was written by Le The Song, inspired by Doctor Chua Soo Pong’s The Haunted Temple.
“It is a great honour to be invited by the Vietnam Tuong Theatre’s director Pham Ngoc Tuan to stage The Legendary Banyan Tree. It was a rewarding experience to work with distinguished artists of the theatre after watching their performances for many years,” Dr Chua said.
“I really did not encounter any difficulty as the Tuong Theatre has a wonderful team of artists who are dedicated and willing to put in extra hard work to achieve artistic excellence. Tuong shares many aesthetic principles of traditional theatre genres that I have worked with, like Chinese opera, Japanese kabuki, and Indonesian wayang wong. When I demonstrate the movements desired for a particular scene, they immediately understand the quality of movements needed. And we refine them together,” he said.
“I hope that this play can also attract young public as it is staged in a new way,” he added.
The piece is a story about a thousand year old banyan tree which is personified, with its branches, leaves, and trunk having souls.
Dr Chua said that he has had long been passionate about tuong, in particular after he watched Vietnam’s famed play Ngheu So Oc Hen (Oyster, Snail and Mussels), which was performed at China - ASEAN Theatre Festival in 2016 in China.
“After I watched some performances of Vietnamese tuong artists, I see that this art form can be easily integrated with the international stage, from music, dancing to the way the actors express their feelings through their facial expression and gestures.”
“I saw that the public from different countries including China, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia were excited to watch the Vietnam’s play Ngheu So Oc Hen. They laughed at funny scenes in the show without understanding the conversation between characters.
They understood the show despite the language barrier. That’s why I had the idea to stage this new piece and to bring this magnificent art form of Vietnam to the world,” he said.
Dr Chua completed his master’s and doctorate degrees in anthropology and ethnomusicology in the UK. His works have been performed on nearly 80 international stages in the world.