Japanese masterpiece to be performed in Hanoi

The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange will cooperate with  Japan’s Bunraku Puppet Theater from Bunraku Company to give an exchange and performance program called “Traditional Puppet of Asia: Bunraku Meets Asean” at Vietnam Puppet Theater in Hanoi on August 30.

In 2013, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ASEAN Japan Friendship and Cooperation, Bunraku Puppet Theater, traditional puppet theater of Japan, was staged for the first time in South East Asia at Kuala Lumpur. It not only marked a historical first appearance in the region, but also paved a way to a new collaboration between Japan and ASEAN countries through traditional puppets.

This year 2014, young professionals of Bunraku Puppet Theater from Bunraku Company will tour to joint-workshops, build network and exchange skill with local traditional puppet theater in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi.

Ranked as one of Japan’s foremost stage arts, the Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theater (Bunraku) is a blend of sung narrative, instrumental accompaniment and puppet drama. The plots related in this new form of puppet theater are derived from two principal sources: historical plays set in feudal times (Jidaimono) and contemporary dramas exploring the conflict between affairs of heart and social obligation (Sewamono).

Ningyo Johruri had adopted its characteristic staging style by the mid eighteenth century with three puppeters, visible to the audience, manipulate large articulated puppets on the stage behind a waist high screen. From a projecting elevated platform (yuka), the narrator (tayu) recounts the action while a musician provides musical accompaniment on three-stringed spike lute (shamisen). To solely dubs all characters voice in a play, one tayu has to change different voices and intonations. Although the tayu “reads” from a scripted text, there is ample room for improvisation.

Approximately 160 works out of the 700 plays written during the Edo period have remained in today’s repertory. Nowadays, the aesthetic qualities and dramatic content of the plays continue to appeal to modern audiences.

The National Puppet Theatre of Japan will present a dramatic tale of love, passion and devotion, Date Musume Koi no Higanoko (Oshichi's Burning Love).

It was written in 1773 is based on the true tale of a merchant's young daughter, Oshichi who starts a fire in town and then climbs a tower to sound an alarm in order to save her secret lover.

Compiled by Kim Khanh

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