folks on street
A bunch of us waiting on the street — maybe for a break in traffic.

Sunday, 6 November:
our first ( full ) day in Hanoi

3. An amazing folk-art entertainment, for children

Just one adventure to tell about from this evening, but it was completely unexpected and completely charming.

I don’t recall how much Hung told us about the performance beforehand, but nothing would have prepared us for the Water Puppets (and you can see the theater’s own website).

We had good seats, the house was jammed. We got seated, and before long the band struck up. They were dressed in traditional constume, and the music was terrific. Unquestionably Asian, but nothing screechy. After that orchestral introduction, there was a succession of short theatrical performances, maybe I should say skits.

The stage is a little pond, which is split into a front half and a rear by a bamboo screen. The operators of the puppets stand behind the screen, in a few feet of water, operating their puppets at the end of bamboo rods. The puppets are at the end of bamboo poles, and activated by wires. All the supports and controls are under the water, so as to be invisible to the audience, and controlled by the puppeteers, who are behind the bamboo screen, and standing in water the whole time of the performance. The effect is both magical and obviously primitive, ideal for a kids’ show. I only wish I had been able to understand Vietnamese, since apparently the band makes explanatory remarks during the action.

The clip to the left, 17 seconds in length, just barely gives an idea of the spirit of the show. The skit opened with fish jumping out of the water, and proceeded with the fish­er­men coming out. I started recording the action only after the fish had been jumping for quite some time, and unfortunately, the head of the person in front of me prevented me from catching any further action.

In this much longer (38 seconds) clip, the Hymn to the Mother Goddesses, the characters seem all to be female. There is one star, and the eight sup­port­ing actors. All carry flames, the fairies with flames on their head, the star holding two flames, and she is the only one whose arms are in­de­pen­dent­ly ac­tiv­ated. I’m not sure of the action at the end of the clip, but it seems to me that the star disappears by sinking into the water.

From there, we went to a restaurant for a meal that my journal remarks was not as good as what we had at lunch, and then back to our hotel. I don’t know whether the video clip below was taken on our walk to the restaurant, or from — its time-stamp is half an hour after the puppet videos. But after the meal we were more than ready for a good sleep. More adventures the next day.

That’s Hung on the left, again waiting for a break in traffic (32-second clip).