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Online theatre offers new direction for stage performances



Director Lê Quý Dương proselytises for the online direction of performing arts, even though this form of performance loses the direct vibrancy of theatrical art. He talks to Ngô Minh about his work and the value of online performances.

A scene in ‘Vụ Án Người Đốt Đền’ (A Crime of Herostratus), directed by Lê Quý Dương. Photo courtesy of Lệ Ngọc Theatre

Inner Sanctum: The Vietnamese theatre industry has gone through 100 years of development. Looking back, what are your thoughts on its achievements and limitations?

We can temporarily divide our 100-year-old theatre background into four stages. The first period falls between 1921-1946, marking the dawn of national drama in theatre, which was influenced by classical tragedy and comedy from France.

The second period (1946-1971) marked the shaping of professional Vietnamese theatre art, alongside two resistance wars against France and the US.

The third period (1971-1996) was the peak of Vietnamese theatre, with the second generation of professional directors trained in Stanislavski’s psychological realism method in the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries. The fourth period (1996-2021) can be temporarily named the “transformation” of modern Vietnamese theatre.

We can be truly proud of the great achievements that past and present generations have achieved. However, we are facing big challenges as audiences are gradually moving away from the stage, and performing art has been interrupted due to COVID-19.

Inner Sanctum: Out of the six gold medals awarded at the National Drama Festival 2021, there were two plays with historical themes: Làm Vua (Being a King) and Thiên Mệnh (Mandate of Heaven). Do you think this means historical drama is receiving more attention from audiences and critics?

I believe that the two historical plays were also really high-quality theatrical works, meeting the organising board and jury’s criteria.

To me, the topics of traditional history and contemporary reality are equally attractive and valuable. As the director of Being a King, I still tried to bring contemporary issues into the play.

Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us about the challenges in making history attractive to audiences?

The first difficulty is that the artist needs to have a knowledge and understanding of historical traditions so as not to distort the identified values. If you approach historical topics without contemporary creativity and emotions, it can be dry and boring. If you try to change or renew the plot, it is easy to fall into the trap of “distorting history”.

As with artists in any art form, when approaching and creating a work with a historical theme, you must very skillfully find a balance between historical events and personal creations and emotions that resonate with the times we live in. It’s not right to fall on either side. We must keep the balance and walk carefully on that thin line.

The second difficulty is how to make historical characters and stories, when re-enacted on the stage, convincing and attractive to contemporary audiences in all aspects of the process of enjoying and perceiving the work.

The third difficulty, also the most important and the most challenging one, is how to deliver a message, which is truly valuable to contemporary society and people.

When all these difficulties have been overcome, the work will be appreciated by experts and audiences.

Inner Sanctum: The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has been conducting an online theatre project to serve audiences amid the pandemic. Are you afraid that the online stage will make audiences lose the habit of going to the theatre when the pandemic is under control?

I fully support the programme of the ministry. Although this form of performance may lose the direct vibrancy of theatrical art, it solves many problems in adapting to the current situation.

First, the online stage creates equal opportunities to enjoy for all audiences, especially those in remote, border and island areas. Everyone is equal and has the right to enjoy and appreciate art.

Second, online theatre will expand and enhance the educational features of theatrical art. Each performance, in addition to being entertainment, will be an aesthetic and humane lesson, contributing to raising intellectual and social consciousness.

Third, the online stage will save on management and operation costs for the theatre and increase revenue for performing artists through selling tickets and advertisements online.

Fourth, the online stage is an opportunity for theatres and art troupes to create more works.

Fifth, the online stage will open a new channel to evaluate the talents of creative and performing artists objectively and transparently based on the number of followers and the direct feedback of critics and audiences.

Finally, the online stage will be an official channel to introduce, exchange and integrate the Vietnamese stage with the world stage in the fastest and most economical way. With this criterion, I suggest that all theatrical plays selected in the online theatre programme of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism need to have English subtitles or other foreign languages ​​suitable for international showings.

Director Lê Quý Dương believes in the power of online theatre. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Inner Sanctum: How should we harmonise live and online performances?

We are living in an era where individuals actively choose what is suitable for their purposes, needs and conditions. The most important thing is to carefully study the ticket prices of live performances at the theatre and the ticket prices of online shows.

Inner Sanctum: Would you tell us about your current projects?

I have directed the drama Vụ Án Người Đốt Đền (Herostratus Who Burned Artemis Temple) based on the original script by Russian playwright Grigori Gorin. In the 1980s, the Việt Nam Drama Theatre produced the piece and it stirred audiences. Now Lệ Ngọc Theatre has invested to make it great again.

Herostratus who burned Artemis Temple of Ephesus became a symbol in literature and art, as a man who commits a criminal act in order to achieve notoriety at any cost.

Gorin’s plot is a literary and dramatic masterpiece, which is considered a piece of heritage. I tried to bring a new breath of modern creativity into the play.

Through the drama, I sent a message that criminals must be punished as always. Punishment for visible and recognisable crimes is easy. Punishment of crimes in disguise, hidden under the masks of kindness and humanity is much more difficult.

The human world today has many types of such crimes. I overturned the problem Gorin posed 50 years ago with newly written dialogue between Herostratus and the Theatre Man.

It is a dialogue of two eras, 25 centuries apart, to clarify hot issues in society today. With the goal of touring nationally and internationally, I have staged a performance with a suitable duration and symbols. The play is extremely compact, but the weight and multidimensional emotions will be fully felt by the audience. VNS



Historical play on President Hồ Chí Minh released



The image of Uncle Hồ was depicted faithfully in the play “The 72nd Letter”.  — Photo courtesy of Lệ Ngọc Theatre

HÀ NỘI — The newly premiered play ‘Lá đơn thứ 72′ at Lệ Ngọc Theatre evoked strong emotions in the audience due to its accurate depiction of President Hồ Chí Minh, who always fought for the underprivileged.

Hoàng Thanh Du, the play’s author, said that it was based on real documents of lawyer Nguyễn Trọng Tỵ,  former Judge of the Supreme People’s Court, who helped clarify many wrongful conviction cases.

Lá đơn thứ 72′ (The 72nd Letter) tells the story of Đỗ Minh, a Party member and former local official who was sentenced to eight years in prison for murder.

To prove his innocence, Minh penned a series of letters pleading for help while in prison. After 72 consecutive letters, his request reached President Hồ Chí Minh.

Uncle Hồ then sought a re-investigation of this case after noticing Minh’s compliance with prison regulations and his practice of setting aside a small amount of money to pay the Party fee.

He believes that for a Party member with such strong faith in the Party, his sentence may be unjust.

People’s Artist Lê Tiến Thọ, who participated in the staging of the play, said that this is one of the theatre’s best scripts depicting President Hồ.

The creative team faced a significant task, in his opinion, in conveying the message to follow Hồ Chí Minh’s thought, morality and lifestyle on stage.

“We try to set up the stage, get the sound, light, actors’ performances, and artists’ language to work together so that the audience, especially young people, can enjoy this play. Hopefully, it will be a special theatrical work to celebrate the 132nd anniversary of President Hồ Chí Minh’s birthday,” Thọ said.

People’s Artist Vương Duy Biên said when reviewed the screenplay, he envisioned a tranquil Hà Nội from previous decades on the stage.

Biên added that he was touched when he read documents about Uncle Hồ’s trips and will aim to faithfully portray Hồ Chí Minh on stage.

In addition to ‘Lá đơn thứ 72′, Lệ Ngọc Theatre also staged a new play named ‘Truyền tích Chùa Một Cột’ (The Legend of One Pillar Pagoda).

It’s a play of history and mystery, written with the aim that the young generation can appreciate this unique heritage more.

The drama recreates the Lý dynasty’s golden era through the story of the One Pillar Pagoda’s foundation.

The image of King Lý Thái Tông, the second king of the Lý dynasty, stands out. He thought that the country and its people should be ruled with humanity in mind.

The show also helps people learn more about the One Pillar Pagoda, which is a unique symbol of Buddhist culture in Việt Nam.

With intricate staging, fascinating scripts, and captivating plots, the two theatrical pieces are certain to evoke unforgettable feelings in the audience. VNS


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PM congratulates Vietnamese women’s football team



Vietnamese players celebrate their victory. VNA/ Photo

Bảo Ngọc

HÀ NỘI — State leaders have congratulated the Vietnamese women’s football team on winning the gold medal on May 21.

President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc praised Huỳnh Như and her teammates for their successful competition, which brought endless joy to fans throughout the country. President Phúc also praised coach Mai Đức Chung, the coaching staff, and the players for their accomplishments.

He thanked the sports fans for bringing the love of sport and national pride together at Cẩm Phả Stadium and across the nation, creating spiritual strength for the “female warriors” to go through each match, especially the final, to bring glory to the country, and pride for Vietnamese women’s football.

Shortly after the final match, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính sent a letter of congratulations to the Vietnamese women’s soccer team.

PM Chính expressed his delight that the players successfully defended their top place at the SEA Games for the seventh time. 

“With courage, determination, and intelligence, the women’s football team once again shone and contributed an outstanding gold medal to the 391 SEA Games medals of the Việt Nam delegation,” he wrote. 

PM Chính congratulated the women’s football team on their victory and emphasised that it would inspire the Vietnamese sports delegation to be more determined and succeed in upcoming competitions.

After the final match, the players also received congratulations from National Assembly Chairman Vương Đình Huệ through the President of Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) Trần Quốc Tuấn.

According to Tuấn, the VFF decided to award VNĐ2 billion (US$86,000) to the Vietnamese women’s team following their final match. He stated that it was a miracle accomplished by Vietnamese players under the intelligent direction of head coach Mai Đức Chung.

In addition, Quảng Ninh Province also awarded the players VNĐ1 billion, Tuần Châu Group and Thanh Niên Newspaper awarded VNĐ1 billion, TTP Coal Corporation gave them VNĐ500 million in rewards, and the SEA Games Organising Committee offered a bonus of VNĐ100 million for their efforts.

Notably, FE Credit Company also decided to award VNĐ3 billion to the team.

The total reward for the Vietnamese women’s football team for the final night has reached VNĐ7.6 billion ($328,000). —  


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Golden Việt Nam defeat Thailand for SEA Games crown



Nguyễn Tiến Linh (9) and Nhâm Mạnh Dũng (17) celebrate after Dũng scored the only goal for Việt Nam. VNA/ Photo Quốc Khánh

Peter Cowan

HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam retained their SEA Games men’s football title on Sunday night, with a late, golden goal enough to see off bitter rivals Thailand by a goal to nil.

The party began at Mỹ Đình Stadium in Hà Nội and surely went long into the night as the whole country celebrated their latest group of young heroes.

The latest piece of silverware is yet another vindication of coach Park Hang-seo’s pragmatic methods, as while Việt Nam failed to entertain with their quality of play, he U23s still came away with the gold medal.

Coach Park made three changes to the starting 11 that defeated Malaysia in the semi-final on Thursday, with Nguyễn Văn Tùng, Huỳnh Công Đến and Phan Tuấn Tài coming into the team.

The passion of the rabid home crowd ensured the match was played in an atmosphere befitting of a final, but the quality of play in the first half was sorely lacking.

Coach Mano Polking’s Thailand passed the ball much better than their Vietnamese opponents but were unable to conjure any dangerous chances in the opening period.

While Việt Nam struggled to get the ball down and play, they did have the best chances to open the scoring.

Just two minutes in, Nguyễn Tiến Linh pounced on a poor pass by Thailand’s Jaturapat Sattham and squared the ball for Tùng in the box. However the young forward put his shot wide of the post.

Việt Nam footballers celebrate the win over Thailand. VNA/ Photo Quốc KHánh

In the 19th minute, it was Linh’s turn to spurn a glorious opportunity as he headed Tai’s cross straight into the arms of Thai goalkeeper and captain Kawin Thamsatchanan.

Into the second half, Thailand came out of the dressing rooms the much better side, with Worachit Kanitsribampen spurning a decent chance in the 49th minute and then firing just wide again less than a minute later.

The tension of the occasion clearly impacted both sides as they slogged away for much of the half without being able to conjure any dangerous opportunities.

The golden moment came in the 83rd minute via the head of substitute Nhâm Mạnh Dũng.

The Viettel midfielder met a cross from Tài and did superbly well to loop his header over the dive of Kawin and into the net.

The stadium duly erupted in celebration and the crowd seemed to lift the young home side as they saw out the final minutes without much incident.

With the men’s victory added to the women’s success the day before, Việt Nam’s home SEA Games has been as good as gold.


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