Puppets, on water, from Vietnam [by James Wenley]
The Festival Garden in Aotea Square contains quite a treat. At the back, a small lake has been created. Regularly during the festival the Thang Long Troupe of Hanoi perform water puppetry there. You should seek it out.
Water Puppetry is an art form that has been going strong for 1000 years. It was very much a part of cultural life with performances marking and celebrating the end of rice harvest, religious festivals, and other important occasions, and made use of the ‘paddy fields, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds’ of the Northern delta.
It was raining the evening I attended, but that doesn’t stop anyone. The festival organisers have the foresight to hand each audience member a plastic rain-honcho to wear. I’m not sure what would have been the stranger sight that day – puppets seemingly moving through the water by themselves, or rows of people wearing the same ridiculous outfit!
Before the puppetry a band of five entertain us with traditional Vietnamese music, as well as a nice nod to a famous kiwi song. The music is lively, and I enjoy the exotic sound. The singer Vu Thi Loan has a wonderful voice and is quite strikingly beautiful in her traditional outfit; she takes her time to look out to each audience member, and the many children in attendance.