|A scene in Uncle Vanya by Vietnamese and Japanese artists. Photo theatrecentrewithoutwalls.org)
“Uncle Vanya” is one of Chekov’s most notable dramas and a mainstay of the theater. The play is set at the estate of the first wife of Professor Serebryakov, where he and his second wife are temporarily forced to stay. Their stay throws the house into turmoil; there is unrequited love, an attempted murder, disillusionment and despair, and rumination on old age and the meaning of life.
This production is a collaboration of the Vietnam Youth Theatre and the Japan Theatre Centre Without Walls. Japanese director Tsuyoshi Sugiyama staged the play for the Vietnam Youth Theatre with the participation of Japanese artists last December. It took the team three years to cast the roles and build the set, and another 3 months to arrange the performance.
"We organize annual workshops to introduce writer Checkhov’s works to the Vietnamese audience and adapt his plays to the Vietnamese culture to make them easier for a Vietnamese audience to understand and enjoy. In our last rehearsal for this year’s performance of the play ‘Uncle Vanya’, we invited 15 Japanese experts in sound, light, costumes, and props to support us. We’ve done our best to ensure success,” said Emeritus Artist Nguyen Si Tien, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Youth Theatre.
"Unce Vanya’s story is still alive," said director Sugiyama. Although Chekhov wrote the story in the 19th century, it was not set in a specific time or place. The message is still valid for modern audiences. Sugiyama received his theatre education in Russia. Sugiyama’s direction makes Chekhov’s story sombre and conveys a message of love and hope.
“The crew uses a projector and actual sand and dust on the stage to make the characters’ lives more vivid,”said Emeritus Artist Tien.
The Vietnamese actresses and actors in the play had to adjust their performance to match the play’s Russian sensibility.
Actor Thu Quynh told VOV "I think I’m very lucky to have a role in the play. I will do my best to make the play a success. Initially, this project seemed very novel to Vietnamese actors, especially a young actor like me. It wasn’t not easy to work with foreign actors and director because of the language barrier and different acting styles. Both sides have worked hard to create the best possible performance."
Uncle Vanya will be staged in Japan next month.