Thursday, April 23, 2009


Recently, I was mentioning how I've put off doing expected tourist things around town; but if I ever do want to get around to doing them, my deadline is fast approaching. With this in mind, I let Sunshine take me to the water puppet show tonight. It was a neat show, and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud at times. The stage is a small pool bisected by a backdrop. In the semicircle behind this screen, puppeteers manipulate long submerged poles attached to the bottoms of two-foot puppets poking out of the water in the semicircle up front. In this way, water puppetry inverts my admittedly untutored expectation of the form, in which characters dangle from manipulators overreaching a curtain. During the show it occurred to me that water puppetry was a really excellent format for Vietnamese tradition. Obviously it's storytelling from four thousand years of seaside villages, paddy agriculture, and flooding; but also it's the nimble manipulation of fine details handed impeccably down from ancestral times. Not only does it take the crisp and full-bodied athleticism of a martial artist to push and pull the show along, but each of these puppets are hand carved. In a country that prides itself on the crystallized stasis of its creative output, a puppet show is like the jack of all trade shows. And yet I wonder what really has mutated since the eleventh century, as if it would be possible to navigate whatever grapevine Darwinism has escaped the best efforts of those powers dead set against the very idea. I presume the plastic sword the golden turtle god Kim Quy takes from Lê Lợi as he rows around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, for example, was not plastered with reflective metallic holographic stickers back in the old days. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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