We are still in our first day in Hanoi, still pretty well jet lagged, and we were told that this afternoon we were off to the famous Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre. It is well worth following this link to find out a bit more about Water Puppetry in Vietnam. Very briefly, water puppetry has been fundamental to Vietnamese culture for many, many years. It has developed from a form of folk art practised in rural areas of the country and in modern times Ho Chi Minh was very keen that it should be adopted as the national art form. Please read a more detailed account by following the link.
When we arrived at the Theatre, we found that we had prime seats close to the front. This should have made photography easy, however the light, and the rapid and unpredictable movement of the puppets, still represented a significant challenge. These pictures are the best I could manage. Some were taken with flash and some with natural light, which was barely adequate. The natural light, high ISO shots are a bit noisy.
An important aspect of Water Puppetry is the traditional musical support to the performance. This is provided by a group of musicians seated close to and a little above the ‘stage’.
The ‘stage’ is a quite large waist deep expanse of water, backed by a rattan screen which hides the puppeteers. They control the puppets through systems of bamboo poles with strings through them.
As a photographer, I often find that I miss some of what is going on around me as I concentrate on capturing images. This was certainly true here, as the performance in any case sometimes seemed a bit disjointed, being made up of a series of ‘snippets’ depicting aspects of traditional Vietnamese life. I think, however, that it is the skill of the puppeteers handling of their puppets that creates the strongest impression.
This first picture is of a pair of dragons squirting water at each other. I suppose water is easier than fire in this case.
A flutist on a water buffalo.
A variety of farmers, I think, can be seen in the next two shots.
Some sort of fishing story was being told here.
This was followed by some sort of ceremonial procession of the puppets, the details of which I’m afraid I missed. Whatever the story was it must have been a real challenge to the puppeteers not to become entangled with one another.
A somewhat ‘snooty’ bird then got involved in a bit of avian rivalry with another one.
This seems to be some important personage, like an emperor maybe, being transported in his Dragon Boat.
This bunch looked altogether more warlike with their frenetic paddling.
This was followed by rather more peaceful presence of a group of young ladies, which I also can’t remember the story for.
There were many other little stories within this performance, that I have not included.
After the performance the puppeteers came out for their curtain call.
After the performance we headed back to the hotel for dinner and some well needed sleep. The next day was going to involve a pretty intensive tour of Hanoi. Please come back for a look. It will be in ‘bite sized’ pieces.
If you missed the first post on our tour of Vietnam, it can be found here.