Life in Vietnam

Sunday, 11/03/2018 15:20

HCM City Hát Bội Theatre targets young audiences

A painting on hat boi by artist Pham Quang Phuc at the exhibition Paint the Art of Hat Boi opened last month in HCM City. The event attracts 140 painters and artists in different fields of theatre, movie and graphic design. (Photo courtesy of the organiser)
Viet Nam News

By Anh Thu

The HCM City Hat Boi Theatre has launched its new free programme offering hat boi or tuong (classical drama) performances for primary school students as part of the theatre’s efforts to attract young audiences.  

The programme, Tim Hieu Ve Hat Boi (Learning Vietnamese Classical Drama of Hat Boi), features more than 30 veteran and young performers, including Meritorious Artist Xuan Quan, and young talents Ha San and Tuan Nghia.

The artists perform popular extracts from historical plays, such as Tran Hung Dao Dai Chien Bach Dang Giang (General Tran Hung Dao in the Victorious Battle on the Bach Dang River) and Tran Quoc Toan (Young Hero Tran Quoc Toan).

They plan to offer 12 shows a year for students in 12 primary schools in six districts in the city.

“We know about pop music but have no knowledge of hat boi. Thanks to artists of HCM City Hat Boi Theatre, we now learn about art and the country’s history, culture and lifestyle through their performances,” said Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, a student at Le Chi Truc Primary School in District 3.

Tuyen and her friends also received training in make up, singing and dancing in hat boi from young artists after the show.

According to artist Quan, a co-creator of the programme, hat boi is a unique genre of Vietnamese theatre originating in the 12th century, and “should be introduced in new versions to meet the tastes of youngsters”.

“Through our shows at schools, we hope to preserve and expand the art,” he said.

Last year, Quan and his actors also launched a free programme on Bui Vien Pedestrian Street in District 1 to introduce the art to foreign visitors.

The programme, Gioi Thieu Nghe Thuat Hat Boi (Introducing Hat Boi), features 20 young performers trained by People’s Artist Dinh Bang Phi.

It is staged twice a month on weekends.  

Each 60-minute show offers three extracts from historical plays by famous authors such as Dao Tan, Tong Phuoc Pho and Nguyen Hien Dinh.

Highlighted shows are extracts from Tram Trinh An (Behead Trinh An) and San Hau (The Reign), both featuring historic events .

“Our actors are young but their performances have left a very strong impression on audiences,” said Phi, who has more than 45 years of experience in the art.


The theatre is asking the city government to fund an upgrade of its building to meet the market’s high demand. 

“Outdated theatres are one of our biggest challenges that we need to overcome,” said Huynh Huu Nhi, deputy director of the theatre.  "We also need to improve our management after upgrading and building quality theatres with quality facilities and beautiful decor.”   

Nhi’s theatre will renovate its 200-seat auditorium this year. 

Training is another problem faced by the artists. "We face a shortage of young and skilled performers," Quan said.

“About 3,000 people applied to study at the HCM City University of Theatre and Cinematography last year, but no one wanted to become a hat boi actor,” he said. “To resolve the problems and attract more investment, new policies on taxes, building theatres and study fees should be issued.”

Along with traditional arts such as cheo (traditional opera) in the north and cai luong  (reformed theatre) in the south, hat boi has contributed to the spirit and characteristic of Vietnamese.

Hat boi developed from a folk art to a royal art. Its themes include monarchist loyalty and patriotic duty which define the play’s structure, features, language, music, colour, struggles and personality of the characters.

The art consists of singing and dancing to music.— VNS



Along with traditional arts such as cheo (traditional opera) in the north and cai luong (reformed theatre) in the south, hat boi has contributed to the spirit and characteristic of Vietnamese. ( Photo courtesy of the theatre)
Artists from the HCM City Hat Boi Theatre perform at Gioi Thieu Nghe Thuat Hat Boi (Introducing Hat Boi), a free programme for visitors staged on HCM City’s Bui Vien Pedestrian Street in District 1. (Photo courtesy of the theatre)

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