A lack of puppeteers is threatening the survival of traditional puppetry, according to Chairman of Vietnam Theatre Artists' Association, Le Tien Tho.

At a seminar held recently to promote the traditional art form, Tho said puppetry art is very distinct and those who are committed to puppetry should be trained with a view to meet the demand for professional puppeteers.

Puppets are controlled by artists who can't use their words. The story is gestured through the actions of the puppets.

Art troupes have partnered with the Cinematography and Theatre College to host training courses for those wanting to join the unique art form. However, almost all the seminar participants said the training would not meet demand for professional puppeteers.

The shortage has also stymied creativity and innovation, according to Nguyen Hoang Tuan, director of Thang Long Puppetry Theatre.

He said many foreign visitors have told him that they see the same shows at the Thang Long Theatre. They want to see new shows not the same ones over and over.

Vietnamese water puppetry became world famous in the 1980s leading to a spike in the number of professional puppetry theatres and troupes in the country.

"The professionalisation took about two decades but there has been a decrease in the number of artists staying to perform on the puppetry stage, and there are few artists remaining to specialise in the traditional art form", said Ngo Thanh Thuy, director of Vietnam Puppetry Theatre.

According to Thuy, a traditional art form would normally develop strongly in the domestic market before going abroad to compete. "Over the past years, the Vietnamese puppetry has not developed in this way," she said.

"Setting up an art college for puppetry is very necessary. It will be the right way to preserve the tradition, aiming to sustainably develop the unique art form," said Thuy.

The seminar was held alongside World Theatre Day on March 27. The Vietnam Theatre Artists Association has been a member of the International Theatre Institute since 2004.-VNA