13/05/2017 16:46 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Amateur Actors KeepTuong Alive

For years, Tuong has played an important role in the spiritual life of Tho Ha villagers. Tuong performances are an integral part of the village’s festival which is held annually from January 20-22 of the lunar calendar to commemorate Dao Tri Tien, the village’s pottery craft founder and patron saint.
The highlight of the festival’s palanquin procession is the participation of more than 20 artists dressed like Tuong characters.

Most Tuong artists in Tho Ha are residents who gather several times a year to form a troupe when the village holds parties or important events. They are not trained professionally but are taught by their predecessors. The village’s troupe has staged a series of Tuong plays, like “Trieu Dinh Long cuu chua” (Trieu Dinh Long rescues the Lord), “Dao Tam Xuan” (General Dao Tam Xuan) and “Ngu de Kim Hung” which left a lasting impression on the audience.

When we arrived, the village’s Tuong troupe was performing the play, “Dao Tam Xuan”,  in the courtyard. The sound of drums livened up the atmosphere. The stage was a mat spread out on a brick base with sophisticatedly painted faces of the actors wearing colourful costumes.

Tuong is a particularly difficult art to master. Each word and gesture must follow set patterns and artists must see the direction of their hand actions. Besides being able to sing, dance and express the emotions of each characters, the artists must pay attention to the different types of facial make-up used in different plays. The colour of face-painting is also important so that each character has a different personality and the artists show their personality via their masks.

Despite its value, the ancient art has become less interesting to young people. The village’s artists have said that in order to preserve and promote traditional theatre that has existed for hundreds of years, the local authorities should do more to expand the Tuong club and encourage the artists to bequeath their passion to the younger generation.


 

 An artist of the Tuong troupe gets her face-painting for her role in a Tuong play.


Tho Ha village’s amateur actors get their faces painted for their roles in a Tuong play.
Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP



Three elders are cast as the Happiness, Wealth and Longevity. Photo: Trong Chinh/VNP


Tho Ha village’s artists are not trained professionally but are taught by their predecessors. 
Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP


Performing an ancient Tuong play during the festival. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP


Tho Ha Tuong troupe fascinates the audience. Photo: Viet Cuong


Stories in Tuong tend to be ostensibly historical and frequently focus on the rules of social
decorum and can include legends from the history of Vietnam.



Tuong employs the use of stock characters who are recognisable from their make-up and costumes, which are typically very elaborate and extravagant.

Tuong is extremely difficult to perform and requires special training.  


Tuong involves singing with distinctive vocal reproduction techniques, symbolic gestures, and the use of props, and requires coordination with musicians.

 Tho Ha village’s artists are not trained professionally but are taught by their predecessors. 
Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP




Tho Ha Tuong troupe fascinates the audience. Photo: Viet Cuong


The stage was a mat spread out on a wall with sophisticatedly painted faces of the actors wearing colourful costumes. 

By  Viet Cuong & Trong Chinh