Water Puppet is a unique art which has it origin in the delta of the Red river in the tenth century. The farmers in this region devised a form of entertainment using what natural medium they can find in their environment. In ancient times, the ponds and the rice paddies after harvest were the stage for these impromptu shows. This art form is unique to North Vietnam and only finds its way to the world stage in recent years as a result of the normalized relation with the West. Today the Thang Long puppet troupe is the most well known in Ha Noi.
Modern, water puppetry is performed in a pool of water with the water surface being the stage. The puppeteers stand behind a screen and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The puppets are carved out of wood and often weigh up to 15 kg. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music accompaniment. Singers of Cheo (a form of opera) with origin in north Vietnam sing songs which tell the story being acted out by the puppets.The theme of the skits is rural and has a strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. It tells of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales that are told by grandparents to their grandchildren. Stories of the harvest, of fishing and of festivals are highlighted. Legends and national history are also told through short skits. Many of the skits, especially those involving the tales of day-to-day living, often have a humorous twist.
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