The Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre in downtown Hanoi now holds the Asian record for being the only theatre in Asia offering nonstop live performances for 365 days. It is also responsible for introducing the traditional art form to more than 50 countries. The Voice of Vietnam Radio reports.

Vietnam’s Thang Long Puppetry Theater has won recognition by the India-based Asian Book of Records for “being the only theatre in Asia that performs water puppetry all 365 days of the year”. The recognition rewards the theatre’s effort to preserve Vietnam’s traditional art and promote it worldwide.

Water puppetry is a unique folk stage art which is associated with Vietnam’s wet rice civilisation and its history. Previously, water puppetry was performed at the time of the lunar new year and other traditional festivals. But performances now occur every day at the 57B Dinh Tien Hoang street, right in the heart of Hanoi.

Over the past 20 years, the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors, including foreigners who want to explore the Vietnamese culture. Despite a decline in the popularity of traditional theatre, the puppetry theatre is lit up every night and packed with spectators.

Meritorious artist Chu Luong, Deputy Director of the theatre, said: “Our theatre works all year around to entertain, introduce and promote the most distinctive feature of Vietnamese culture: water puppetry. This is a highlight of Hanoi’s cultural scene. This is the 20th consecutive year that we have been involved in this job and set the Asian record.”

The theater impresses visitors with an installation of colorful puppets at the entrance. The water puppetry performances have been adapted from nearly 400 folk tales, depicting the history of Vietnam and people’s daily lives. There are favorite scenes like farmers ploughing, a buffalo boy playing the flute, and fishermen catching fish. Some stories require special techniques like a dragon waggling violently and breathing fire, a fox climbing a tree and fishermen casting their net into the river. Young puppeteers are encouraged to diversify their performances, contributing to the success of the theatre.

Young puppeteer Bach Quoc Khanh said: “I think the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre’s full operation all year round is a happiness and mental encouragement for the artists amidst the difficulties facing Vietnam’s traditional stage art. This is not only a source of pride for the artists of the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre but also other Vietnamese folk artists.”

The shows are attractive to foreigners because they reflect the pure Vietnamese soul through music, costumes, customs, and farm work. As word spreads, the theatre’s audiences are growing and the number of shows is increasing. Artist Luong said: “Each day there are six or seven performances – never less than four shows a day. Our audience is mostly tourists and children. We have also made performance tours in remote areas, where water puppetry is still less popular.”

Each year, the Thang Long Puppetry Theatre stages about 4,000 shows. Since 1992, the puppeteers have performed in nearly 50 countries and participated in world renowned festivals, making Vietnamese puppetry better known to foreigners.-VNA