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Updates from the 2011 Artistic DirectorElisabeth EastherSchools Review CompetitionReviews
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A Magical Delight

By - 3 Mar 2011
"Against a simple yet colourful backdrop of bamboo curtain and red velvet cloths, a light drizzle descends on us as we are transported back a thousand years."

Reviewed by Adey Ramsel, 3 Mar 2011
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"The world famous Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe of Hanoi entertains us with story telling in its basic and simplest format. Six puppeteers stand waist deep in a pool of shimmering green water, masked by a curtain. With a creative but again simple system of strings and pulleys, they have full control and mastery of a range of puppets as they display their beautiful folk art.

Formed originally to celebrate the end of the rice harvest and religious festivals in the paddy fields of Northern Vietnam, the art now depicts daily activities in Vietnamese life, important historical events and ancient legends. 

The puppets themselves are a colourful mix of dragons, phoenix, fishermen, fish, frogs, humans, lions and snakes. Carved with exquisite care and beauty, each one given five layers of lacquer paint to protect them from the water, the puppets are a show in themselves, and I craved to see more of the intricate detail. Rich, deep and intense the colours work well against the green pool and the fading light of the evening. 

The puppet masters' presence is forgotten as we watch these animals and humans act out their rituals. It's nice to see the children in the audience squeal with delight in watching something that is pure story telling - no monitor, no buttons, loud bangs, explosions or violence. We are treated to slapstick, romance, dance, ritualistic synchronised routines that draw us in and amaze us when we remember that they are mere puppets being operated from behind a curtain. 

The agility of each puppet is so precise that you can marvel at each action - the swimming children, arm over arm, is particularly impressive. The absence of any visible string system only increases the wonder and awe, and led me to wonder at the arm strength needed by those puppeteers to operate them from beneath the water at a distance of a good metre behind.

These 6 masters - who along with 6 musicians that accompany each story with their own blend of traditional song and music, have delighted each and everyone one of us - finally emerge for their curtain call. (A nod of respect here to the musicians for performing a version of 'Pokarekare Ana' on their traditional instruments as a pre-curtain raiser.) 

This is a magical event, over all too quickly but something to share with the whole family. A unique theatrical tradition from a culture that truly values its history."


Auckland Arts Festival 2011
Vietnamese Water Puppets
Thang Long Troupe (Vietnam)

at Garden Theatre, Aotea Square, Auckland
Until 20 Mar 2011


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