Vietnamese Water Puppetry Essay

2959 words - 12 pages

Garima Dahiya
Mahindra United World College of India
Theatre Research Investigation
“What are the construction and characterization techniques through which the puppet character of Chủ Tếu is portrayed for a Mua Rồi Nước performance in the scene Avoid Stealing Antique Objects”
Word Count: 1009 words

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Title Page | Page 1 |
Contents | Page 2 |
Subject Essay | Page 3-5 |
Bibliography | Page 6 |
Critique of Sources | Page 7-12 |

Mua Rồi Nước literally translates to “water puppet dance”. The origins of traditional water puppetry are contested; the earliest reference to Water Puppetry in Vietnam was found at two inscriptions at the Long Doi Son Pagoda that ...view middle of the document...

All Mua Rồi Nước performances share a significant number of characteristics. Initially, water bodies were traditional ponds or rice paddy fields in villages where a staging area has been constructed. 20th Century Mua Rồi Nước has specialized buildings with constructed pool stages, even a portable tank for travelling performances. (Foley, 2001, p. 130) Around eight-ten trained puppeteers stand behind a bamboo scrim controlling the brightly painted puppets. The slits in the scrim enable the puppeteers to make sure the puppet choreography is executed properly. It is interesting to observe how the water is kept dark and cloudy to conceal the puppetry techniques and deceive the audience into believing that the puppets are moving themselves. The stage has two doorways on each side- “the door of life” and the “door of death” from which puppets enter and exit respectively (Gaboriault, 2009). Each scene tells a different story, however eventually some if not all scenes connect with each other by a common theme (Gaboriault, 2009, p. 31). All Mua Rồi Nước scenes are based on Vietnamese folk tales that contain one or more morals and values. The scene Avoid Stealing Antique Objects is based on the folk tale The Toad Sues Heaven. “In this scene, village members are gathering near the water to clean Buddha’s statue, however, under the cover of darkness, a thief steals Bodhisattva Kwan Yin’s statue. Chủ Tếu and a group of animals search for the statue to no avail. Pleading for help, the toad asks the kitchen God to tell the Jade Emperor what has happened. The Emperor sends a fairy with a magical telescope and statue is retrieved.” (Gaboriault, 2009, p. 40). The puppet Chủ Tếu appears universally throughout almost all performances. He is seen as a kind of comic master of ceremonies, commenting on stories, on corruption and rejoicing with the couples in love stories. (Gaboriault, 2009, p. 33)

Fig1: A Mua Rồi Nước stage of the Thang Long troupe

Since, puppets are such important elements to a Mua Rồi Nước performance, a great deal of attention is paid to their construction and characterization. The wooden puppets are carved in a sophisticated way of polishing and decorating. They are decorated with different colors in order to enhance the beauty and personality for each character (My). The puppets are usually chiseled out of fig trees that are abundantly found in Vietnam, and have a perforated core. Additionally, they are coated with resin to make them waterproof. The only moveable parts are the head and arms that are attached to strings. The manner in which puppets are controlled depends on the size and complexity of the puppet. Small, simple puppets are fastened to bamboo poles that are then controlled from behind the bamboo scrim by puppeteers. The length of the bamboo poles varies with the dimensions of the pool. Bigger puppets also incorporate circular wooden disks as floatation bases. Furthermore, highly complex characters such as the dragon use an...

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