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Theatre & Puppetry

Vietnamese theatre fuses music, singing, recitation, dance and mime into an artistic whole. These days, the various forms of Vietnamese theatre are performed by dozens of state-funded troupes and companies around the country. Classical theatre is known as Hat tuong in the north and hat boi in the south and is based on Chinese opera. Classical theatre is very formal, employing fixed gestures and scenery similar to the Chinese classics. The accompanying orchestra, which is dominated by the drum, usually has six musicians. Often, the audience also has the drum so it can pass judgment on the onstage action. It has a limited cast of characters, each of whom is easily identifiable through their make – up and costume. Red face-paint reprecents courage. Male character loyalty and faithfulness, while traitors and cruel people have white faces. A main character expresses emotions ( pensiveness, worry, anger) by fingering his beard in difference ways. Popular theatre (Hat cheo) expresses social protest and more satire since 1975. The singing and verse are in everyday language and include many proverbs and sayings, accompanied by folk melodies. Modern theatre ( cai luong) Originated in the south in the early 20th century and show strong Western in fluences. Spoken drama (kich noi or kich), whit its Western roots, appeared in the 1920s and is popular among students and intellectuals. Conventional puppetry ( roi can) and the uniquely Vietnamese art form of water puppetry (roi nuoc), draw their plots from the same legendary and historical sources as other forms of traditional theatre. It is believed that water puppetry ( roi nuoc ) developed when determined puppeteers in the Red River Delta managed to continue performances despite annual flooding(see the boxed text Punch & Judy in a pool).