Gao is created by Linh Valerie Phạm based on the Vietnamese famine in 1945. It aims at uncovering the nature of humanity in a harsh situation.
The piece will be performed in contemporary puppet style to combine body movements and live music. The audience seems to be called into a space and time, inviting them to cross the boundaries of genre, language and age to immerse themselves in the work.
It is a story filled with opposing nuances between the darkness and the light, beauty and beast, and life and death.
There are two preconceptions about puppetry in Vietnam that Mat Tran wants to change through its works not only Gao.
First, Mat Tran wants to show that puppets are not only for children. Second, the ensemble is working to demonstrate that there is a world beyond traditional Vietnamese water puppetry.
“Puppetry by Mat Tran is for all,” said Linh, founder of the ensemble. “We want to have a multidimensional and colourful experiment with a multi-layered story.
“We also want to introduce another approach that combines visual arts, movement and breath to tell stories.”
There is no conversation in the show. Instead of focusing on manipulating puppets, the artists will use their breath to perform. Audiences will not only see the show with their eyes but also experience it through their ears and other senses, according to Linh.
Mat Tran Ensemble develops its style and innovates based on many different puppetry traditions such as Japanese bunraku and Indonesian wangya.
The artists combine other elements such as lighting, installations and video projection in a puppet show which tells stories with breath and material, not just with human figures.
A 40 minute-show, Gao will be performed by puppeteers Linh Valerie Pham, Hyang Chu and Tam An Nhien and sound artist Ly Trang.
After debuting at Dixon Place in New York in 2017, Gao was performed at the International Pesta Boneka Puppet Festival in Indonesia last year.
Mat Tran Ensemble is an art complex founded in 2017 in Hanoi with the goal of breaking the rules of performing arts. Last April, the ensemble had a tour through Vietnam to perform a short piece about gender equality.