Director Viet Tu: 'Hau dong” ritual should be returned in true nature'

Post date 04/19/2018

The director and his crews take care of “The Four Palaces" to describe the true nature of ancient ritual, as a way of preserving national cultural identity.

- "The Four Palaces" took a year to choreograph. Why did you and your crews spend so much time?

- Many people also asked me why I had to be so picky because "no one cares that much about the performance". The problem is not like that. We do not respect what we do and think we can do perfunctorily, how can we convince people? Besides, splendor and sophistication are integral parts of original “Hau dong” ritual.

For example, 2 assistants offering clothes in second chapters was only 7 minutes but we spent three months practicing over and over. There are hundreds of details to remember, the movement must have a spirit, the gestures must be consistent. Traditional music band used to play music and dance, but now they have to practice the ceremony on the stage to adapt to the atmosphere of the show.

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Costume changing process carried out by two assistants (on green costume) is the highlight of
The Reincarnation of the Second Lady of Highlands. The purpose of practicing for months is not only to
remember the steps but also to perform it with pure and raw feelings. - Source: Viet Theatre

- In addition to rituals, what did you and the crews care about?

- The ceremony of Mother Goddess religion is very subtle from practice, art performance to small details such as costumes, accessories. With costumes in The Four Palaces, I had to rent artisans to embroider manually for months, even though ready-made clothes are much cheaper and available every time. The sets of paper mannequins must also be made by traditional artisans, coming from three-generation families who are very famous. Nowadays, too many modern materials such as plastic beads are added into products. They are pretty eye-catching but not original.

Small details such as a table are also hundred years old, the right style used in “Hau Dong” ritual. This is a gift for the program that a friend gave me. All the decorations on the stage such as hammocks, crane doors... are made of composite but look like real materials to ensure aesthetics. They are not too heavy when hung up on theater pole, easy to move without fear of breaking or endangering.

Prior to the performance, my crews ignited every urn to make incense be immersed all the room. That created a spiritual space for audiences.

We also went to the market to buy Vietnamese roses - the type with lots of thorns – and disperse petals at the end of ceremony so the audience can feel fragrance.

Director Viet Tu wants to change people's perception of rituals, to better communicate through the play.

- “Hau Dong” ritual is being distorted by many people as superstitious activities. How do you guarantee the authenticity of the original ritual in your performance?

- I spent many years researching “Hau Dong”. Books about this fields are various, so I should take time to sort out and choose. I also participated in 2 important “Hau Dong” events in Hanoi. Through these events, I had an objective, multi-dimensional view of the ritual to get my own way. Besides that, are the help of veteran Medium to bring this special ceremony on stage.

I am an artist, not a specialist in religion. I just learn that original faiths were very good. The fault is other people’s self-interest exploited from religion. For example, veteran Medium told me that in the past, they never threw money in the end of ritual as a prosperity sharing ceremony. If house owners had anything, from fruits to sweets, they could bring and disperse “prosperity”, if they were sincere. Then, the fortune would be spread with the desire to share their joy, happiness and prosperity with people.

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 The audiences receiving God’s offerings from the medium at the end of the performance.
These offerings are Vietnamese traditional foods such as truncated cone shaped cake or candies
made from lotus seeds. - Source: Viet Theatre

- What motivated you to perform “Hau Dong” ritual, instead of other usual entertainment shows?

- When I was young, I was living in the atmosphere of national art, watching the performances of my mother and colleagues who were veteran artists with more than 30-year experience in the profession of water puppetry in Hanoi. The values of national art they brought in the performances were enormous. It prompted me to continue the path of developing national culture and producing play “The Four Palaces”.

On the spiritual side, I believe myself to be the chosen person to do this. That was predestined affinity. As far as art is concerned, not just me, but everyone in this field is responsible for preserving national culture and introducing it to our friends both domestically and internationally. This became more special when Prime Minister agreed to submit profile “Viet Nam's "Mother Goddess ritual" to UNESCO as the next intangible cultural heritage of mankind at the beginning of the year.

I think Mother Goddess ritual and the art of invocations (chau van) deserve a place in the treasures of intangible cultural heritage of mankind. We are fortunate to own a treasure of national culture. I want to contribute a small part to introduce to the audience at home and abroad what are the most beautiful, splendid and original of Mother Goddess religion.

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The special lighting effects (beginning scene of the Four Palaces Show) from modern art embraces the
senses of audiences when they see the performance. Director Viet Tu spent lots of time to come out
with the idea of using these lighting effects to give audiences the closest experience to the
temple’s hau dong ritual. - Source: Viet Theatre

- How do you rate the success of “The Four Palaces” with other programs you have implemented?

- It is not possible to compare what I have done with The Four Palaces. This was a challenging project for me up to this point, although the show lasted only 42 to 45 minutes. Fortunately, over the past six months, The Four Palaces has had the opportunity to reach out and receive many compliments from local and international audiences, from ambassadors, representatives, cultural attachés in France, Italy, Poland, Greece, Canada .... or representatives of UNESCO, UNICEF. This is our motivation on the way to preserve and promote the beauty of national culture.