Making news

Traditional theatres lure more viewers

During the last weekend of every month, Vietnam Cheo Theatre on Kim Mã Street in Hà Nội welcomes hundreds of visitors to watch how a cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera) play is performed on a large stage in a traditional style.

Last month was no exception. About 400 tickets were sold and when the Trinh Nguyen show opened, all seats were occupied.

The ancient cheo play tells a story about a mother and her two children who face wrongful punishment in court. They struggle to protect their ethics while making sacrifices in the name of motherhood and brotherhood, until a verdict of ‘not guilty’ proves they were right in fighting injustice.

Ancient play: A scene from Trinh Nguyen.

Performed in the ancient way of cheo, the play made an impression on a large number of younger audience.

Previously, in April, the theatre also saw a record numbers of 500 viewing the show when it opened the Tống Trân Cúc Hoa, which was praised as one of the most successful classic cheo plays.

Such examples of full seat capacity at one of the biggest traditional art stages every month, with a majority of young people among the audiences, is a positive sign to inspire the performers to keep going in the face of increasing obstacles.

The obstacles include an increasing popularity of modern music and films, imported to the country as part of global integration and pervasive internet and social network use.

Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoan, the theatre’s director, admitted that currently it was hard for traditional art performances to preserve and develop the nation’s precious cultural heritage.

Ngoan, who is also an experienced cheo performer with the stage name Thanh Ngoan, told Việt Nam News that the rapid development of modern music and other performing arts is having a detrimental effect on traditional Vietnamese art forms.

The actress said that more young people are interested in imported cultural trends, so the theatre’s success was a great encouragement for her and other artists to continue their devotion to the traditional performances.

“As an artist who has witnessed many ups and downs over the development of traditional art performances in the country, I can confirm that despite the challenges, we (the artists) have been and will always be devoted to our career,” said Ngoan.

The “success” in luring audiences to the stage, according to Ngoan, resulted from the efforts of all artists at the theatres over several years of reform.

She said it was also the result of an improvement in operations with the aim of meeting the demands of all types of viewer.

Ngoan said a concrete development plan had been established, with key targets of attracting the attention of all theatre goers, from the very young to the old.

“We have mapped out a development plan focusing on training young artists with the goal of maintaining traditional performances at the same time as reforming scripts,” said Ngoan.

While performing more classic cheo plays, the theatre is also offering more modern shows with new scripts built on current social issues such as anti-corruption or economic development.

In both styles of performances, all cheo plays should follow traditional melodies and lyrics, according to Ngoan.

The theatre’s director. said thanks to support from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, particularly in financial assistance, the theatre has installed modern stage facilities including a high-tech sound system and a spectacular decorative backdrop.

Popular: Performing cheo in the traditional way is attracting the attention of younger audiences.

“Along with a focus on maintaining the quality of performances, stages facilities such as the sound system and decoration play important roles,” said Ngoan.

Sharing Ngoan’s opinion, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Stage Artists Association (VNSAA) Le Chuc agreed traditional stages are facing emergency circumstances.

The official made the comment at a workshop held recently to analyse the difficulties in stage performances and find solutions to attract more viewers.

Experts also warned that among reasons for the crisis, poor performances and organisation should not be overlooked.

Dinh Quang Trung, director of the Hanoi Institute of Theatre and Cinema, said many traditional shows were not meeting the demand of the audience.

Trung cited some examples that had failed to lure enough people, such as a traditional theatre performance contest held last year in the central province of Thanh Hoa and a cai luong (reformed opera) festival in the southern province of Bạc Liêu.

To rescue traditional stages from the crisis, experts suggested a variety of measures including an urgent improvement in the quality of performances, more Government investment, and reform in the organisation and operation of theatres.

Vietnam has held many international theatre festivals particularly the International Stage Festival 2016 which attracted the participation of more than 20 countries and territories.

The festival brought more opportunities for Vietnamese performers to exchange, learn and improve their skills.

Le Tien Tho, an artist and chairman of the VNSAA, appealed for more efforts from the artists including the performers and script writers to improve their skills and offer higher quality works.

“To attract audiences to traditional stages, artists themselves should undertake efforts together to build high-quality theatre works. They should always try to explore, discover and make new works with attractive, beautiful images and meaningful content to satisfy the entertainment demands of all audiences,” said Tho.

The VNSAA chairman, who is also a prominent tuong (classic drama) performer and has been awarded the title of "People’s Artist", urged all artists to increase their awareness on current cultural trends.

“All works should be rooted in real life to reflect the truth with vividness, aspiration and humanism so that they help build and protect social values,” said Tho.