KVT – My Village is still Golden

KVT – My Village is still Golden

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KVT revisits Vietnam new circus and comes away enthralled… again

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It’s almost Christmas and in some cold Christmassy countries it used to be a tradition to take the kiddies to the circus around about this time of the year.

So when I saw the posters around town for a performance of ‘Lang Toi’- My Village, I just knew that I had to grab a child and give him a perfect Christmas treat. I use the male gender because the kid we grabbed was the ten year old son of a village woman who sells fish at a wet market in Hanoi and his wide eyed wonder was truly wonderful.

I first fell under the golden spell of ‘Lang Toi’ in February, 2009, at the Opera House, where They gave a golden performance of the show they’d been pleasing people with throughout Europe. So it was essentially necessary that I reconnected with the show to see if it was still as brilliantly golden as I remembered.

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And it was….and just as golden as rice staw that piles along village lanes after harvest and as golden as the bamboo that is the essential focus of the show.

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This time the village recreated itself in the Kim Ma Cheo Theater which is almost a perfect venue for it because the seats rise in tiers like those at a real traveling circus.

The circus is in the French “new circus’ style which means there are no animals and no gratuitous virtuosity. The show is a mixture of acrobatics, juggling and music, with a series of scenes which illustrate the daily life of a traditional village

This You Tube clip illustrates it all beautifully and highlights the beginning of the show and the dazzling work with long bamboo poles and a girl who negotiates through them on a trapeze

And here I’ll use a review from The Guardian about a performance in Paris to add the correct meat to my opinion piece…….. ‘The New Vietnam Circus is the work of three men: Nhat Ly Nguyen, Lan Nguyen and Le Tuan Anh. The first two are brothers, born in France of Vietnamese parents. They spent their childhood both in France and in Vietnam, subsequently studying at the National Circus School in Hanoi.

After working as a clown and musician in many places, Nhat Ly Nguyen set up his own production company in Vietnam. His brother Lan worked with Cirque Plume and is now the art director of Arc en Cirque, the circus school at Chambéry in the French Alps. Anh is Vietnamese but has juggled his way all over the world. He now divides his life between Germany and Canada, where he has joined Cirque du Soleil.

The three of them joined forces to hatch My Village, borrowing 20 young artistes from the Vietnamese National Circus, a large troupe heavily influenced by three separate traditions: Chinese, French (during the colonial period) and Russian (since independence).’

‘My Village’ is worth while going to see just to concentrate on the music played on traditional instruments by six musicians….or just to see how the bamboo poles are used as stage props and acrobatic apparatus

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…or just to see the banks of bamboo lanterns rise up to herald night…..or just to part of the golden stage set

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…or just to be part of the vibrant, simple storyline and its dramatic impact

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… …or just to marvel at the intricate choreography

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….but mainly to see those wonderfully agile circus performers.

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Again from The Guardian:…. ‘They have had the bright idea of using bamboo cane, an ancestral material if ever there was one, as the show’s guiding thread. With just a few bits of string and bicycle inner-tube the New Vietnam Circus artistes build and rebuild superb, moving structures: huts, nests, stilt houses, rafts, suspension bridges and lots more…as they move around their ephemeral building site in an endless balancing act. The supple Vietnamese performers fashion fragile installations, working busily on the ochre ground or leaping through the air. This gives rise to all sorts of acrobatic tricks and fantastic tableaux. In one scene a young contortionist swings from one branch to the next, neither entirely human nor wholly animal, rather a mixture of both……There are many moments of graceful, inventive movement. A stunning musical juggling act brings together a percussionist with a sort of calabash and two men with poles. As if by magic the poles fly, striking the drum and producing sound.’

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The performance ends almost too beautifully with a villager with a high tenor voice, perched on high bamboo scaffolding, singing a village song as the lights fade to black.

If you haven’t caught up with this glinting Vietnamese jewel then I’d encourage you to look out for its next appearance in town. This time around it only advertised in Vietnamese so be on the look out for LANG TOI. You’ll love it as much as the locals who have a romantic view of que huong- ancestral village…but then, don’t we all?

Another clip from an interview on French television: French interview


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Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.


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