Below is a short video I did of a Vietnam Water Puppet show we saw on our last day in Hanoi. While it was listed on our AMA Waterways agenda, I guess I never really thought much about it before we went. I figured we’d go down to some river and watch the puppets moving around, perhaps by nearby boaters, or underwater swimmers! Anyway, nothing could be further from our imaginations!
Fortunately on our Airbus 380 flight over to Seoul (connecting to Hanoi) we saw a video on Vietnam featuring Halong Bay as well as the Vietnam Water Puppet Show, so we had a better appreciation of what the show would be like. It’s actually quite an amazing show, both in tradition and technology, as well as the skill of the puppeteers.
Our show took place in the Lotus Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi, which is modern, hi-tech theater offering comfortable seats in a stadium-like movie theater arrangement for great viewing. We were on the second row, and it was amazing to watch. The stage is large and filled with water. Behind the bamboo curtains, (and unseen to the audience) are the puppeteers, who skillfully maneuver the puppets through some 14 acts of the play, each set to a different theme, with live music performed on either side of the stage, setting the tone for the drama. The puppeteers use long poles to maneuver the puppets.
I took just a few photos and snippets of video as I didn’t want to be distracting to others, not to mention enjoying the show. It was quite original, and as I read later on Wikipedia, it’s unique to Vietnam and dates back hundreds of years.
At the end of the show, the curtains open and the puppeteers come out and take a bow. I wondered thought the show how many puppeteers they would have to stage such an elaborate show, and there were six puppeteers, who stand in waist deep water behind the stage to maneuver the puppets. How they can move the puppets around with such seemingly ease, and not being able to see past the curtains requires talent and skill, no doubt passed down from generations of puppetters.