Another element adding value to the show is its distinctive background music. Each puppet show is accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese band with a range of instruments like vocals, drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, bamboo flutes, etc. The emotional playing of these instruments intrigues more dramatic atmosphere for each respective skit. There is always an interaction between the musicians and the puppets.
A quick look at this world-famous art in some numbers:
1000: years of birth of Vietnamese water puppet. It originated in the traditional villages of the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam.
8: the maximum of puppeteers needed to run the show. They will stand behind a bamboo slat screen, decorated to resemble a temple-front, and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string structure which are hidden beneath the water surface.
15 (kg): the heaviest puppets. You will have an interesting encounter with some signature characters of Vietnamese folklores such as Chú Tễu ( his name means “laugh” in ancient Vietnamese) - the show’s opener, who usually makes humorous actions for the audience; Dragons, which represents Vietnamese spirits, etc. These wood-carving puppets all can dance and play a lot of interesting skits accompanied by music and singing.
40: number of foreign countries that the water puppet shows of Vietnam have been brought to through performance tours, cultural exchange program, or puppetry festivals.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
This is certainly on the list of Hanoi’s must-see places. The Theatre got its name from the city of Thang Long, which was renamed in the 1830s to Ha Noi.
Established in 1969, this is one of the most renowned venues for water puppetry in Vietnam. Their “uncanny” performance with wood lacquer water puppets have been acknowledged worldwide. At the Theatre, about 500 shows are presented to approximately 150,000 audiences every year. There are currently two main branches of the Thang Long Theatre Troupe. While both perform the same water puppetry and stories, the areas in which they perform vary. One branch of the troupe tours internationally and the other remains their activities in Ha Noi.
The core content shown in Thang Long Theatre is kept the same as that of other water puppets theaters and traditional places of water puppetry. However, the artists of the Theater aimed at renewing the old shows with the combination between technology – supporting effects of light, music, and people as well as puppets, in hopes of delivering a more vivid atmosphere to the audience. The theater has been operating successfully since the beginning and receiving favors also praises from both domestic and foreign audiences. English subtitles are provided in some skits for the international audience.
Schedule: The Theatre is opened every day with the maximum of 6 shows a day. Each show lasts for nearly an hour. It is suggested that visitors make the reservation in advance as the schedules are always full.
How to get there ( Map ): The Theatre is located inside the Old Quarters of Hanoi, opposite the Hoan Kiem Lake, therefore it would be not a problem to spot the place. You can use any type of transportation to get to the venue. During rush hour, in order to avoid the traffic jam, you can choose to walk to the Theatre while enjoying the spectacular view of Hoan Kiem Lake and busy streets of the Old Quarters.
- There is an additional camera or video fee if visitors want to photograph or film the show.
- In front of the Theatre, there is a beautiful café lounge with a spectacular view of Hoan Kiem Lake, so it is highly recommended that tourists can take turns watching the shows before or after enjoying a cup of coffee and giving a nice view of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Ticket costs between 60.000 - 100.000 VND ($3-5) and can be purchased at doors or by contacting the theatre:
Tel: (84-04) 3 824 9494, 3 825 5450
Fax: (84-04) 3 824 5117
Opening Hours: Shows during the day and evening at 14:00 and 20:00
Location: North east of Hoan Kiem Lake at 57b Dinh Tien Hoang Street
Remarks: There is an additional camera or video fee if you wish to photograph or film the show