Friday, 06/10/2023 13:46

Director Trần Lực captivates audiences with 'The Doll'

By Trần Khánh An

“I no longer want to create plays only for older audiences. Instead, I want to captivate the younger ones to enjoy dramatic performances,” stage director Trần Lực told Việt Nam News at the end of a recent showing of the play The Doll.

It is the first time scriptwriter Lê Hoàng's play has been staged in Hà Nội and it also marks the first collaboration between Hoàng, Lực and LucTeam. 

With a minimalist stage, 'The Doll' still expressed a mystical and abnormal atmosphere through ingeniously designed lighting and sound. Photo courtesy of LucTeam.

Written by Hoàng, who is famed for his sharp, humorous and satirical writing, and directed by Lực in an experimental but traditional artistic style, The Doll blows a new wind into artistic creation with an expressionist style that is both familiar and strange.

Lực draws a contrast between traditional dramatic elements and contemporary theatrical techniques, as well as between the East and global trends.

Born into a family with a rich tradition of chèo folk drama, Lực has been influenced by traditional Vietnamese and Eastern dramatic styles. He chose theatrical conventions and expressiveness as the core values of his LucTeam’s creativity, thereby establishing a unique creative style for stage plays.

However, with the burning desire to draw in a new generation of young audience, Lực consistently experiments and applies up-to-date expressions on stage.

Lực's artistic style is consistently expressed throughout the play, fascinating the audience with his unique storytelling that is unlike any other director. 

The Doll surprised and captivated the audience with the actors' ability to express the plot through the metaphors of their physical movements and facial expressions. To implement their theatrical ideas, actors in LucTeam had to practise body movements from other performance arts such as circus, mime, and traditional Vietnamese theatrical genres such as chèo.

To highlight the actors' body performance, LucTeam designed a minimalist stage with just a curtain behind it. However, they used it carefully and ingeniously to showcase the developments in the play. 

The play has the participation of artist Hoàng Tùng (front), who has extensive experience on stage. Photo courtesy of LucTeam.

The Doll is a realistic but transcendent piece that features four characters -- a naive young girl, a shrewd matchmaker, a good-looking waiter, and a wealthy man. 

Despite the limited number of characters, the play perfectly features LucTeam's vision of “an oriental essence in a contemporary breath”.

Even though the play has a modern context, it has a mystical atmosphere similar to Liaozhai (or Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio), the classic selection of weird and wonderful tales. However, it still tackles contemporary dilemmas such as AI, homosexuality, love, and desire. 

"If artificial intelligence wins on all fronts, so will love!" says the waiter at one point, asking the audience to question the world.

People often fear AI, but the play asks why we should be afraid when the way most of us live and love is already so artificial. In today's virtual world, only what comes from the heart can truly help us connect to others, or so the play implies.

Throughout the nearly two-hour play, the four actors deliver an engaging performance. Without complicated sets, props, or costumes, four actors captivate the audience with just their body movements, eyes, and voices -- a spare performance but powerful for it.

Phương My, who plays the girl, and Võ Hoài Vũ, who plays the waiter, captivate the audience with just body movements, eyes, and voices. Photo courtesy of LucTeam.

Despite being a newcomer to Vietnamese theatre, Võ Hoài Vũ, who portrays the waiter, delivers an exceptional performance. As the eldest son of celebrated actor Võ Hoài Nam, Vũ has inherited serious talent and cannot help but impress the performance.

English subtitles were provided thoughtfully on two screens set up by LucTeam, and there were numerous expats among the audience.

As the play is experimental at times, often employing unnatural dialogue, the performance could potentially be a challenge to younger viewers who may feel unfamiliar with the various theatrical conventions and modes of expression here. Nevertheless, the unique and unpredictable storytelling, sarcastic dialogue, and mystical atmosphere draw the audience.

The audience quickly forgot the gap between the spectators and the stage, and found themselves accompanying the characters on their journey, pulled into the atmosphere and gripping narrative of the play.

“I was highly impressed by the play's use of shadow projections, mime, and contemporary dance. The content was well-crafted and aligns with current Gen Z trends, with the topic of homosexuality cleverly woven into the play through witty dialogue,” viewer Phạm Ngọc Hà, 23, said. VNS

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