Publication Details

Hayes, J. "Of the people, for the people: Duong Le Quy's site-specific spectacles at the 2010 Hue International Arts Festival." FIRT/IFTR International Federation for Theatre Research Annual Conference: Tradition, Innovation, Community. Ed. A. Odanaka. Japan: 2011. 95.


Duong Le Quy’s Journey to Create the Motherland, with its 1,000 performers, offered the 2010 Hue International Arts Festival a monolithic Vietnamese spectacle, designed for performance on the walls of Hue’s ancient Royal Citadel. Symbolically it linked the heartland of Vietnam’s nineteenth century Nguyen dynasty with contemporary Vietnam’s unification; the largest flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam formed an enormous tableau above the performers, as they drummed, sang, strode, danced and set off fireworks over Ky Dai – The Flag Tower of the Imperial Palace. This paper examines the use of traditional Vietnamese theatre practices, including Chèo, Tuồng and Cái luʹoʼng in Le Quy’s theatrical creations and specifically in three of his works at the 2010 Hue International Arts Festival: Dem Hoang cung (The Royal Palace by Night); Huyen thoai Song Huong (Legends of the Perfume River); Hanh trinh mo coi (Journey to Create the Motherland). Le Quy’s skills in creating festival performances across Vietnam, and his popularity in terms of the Communist government’s approval of his work, lies in his eclecticism. His western theatrical experiences (1994 – 2004) have given Le Quy few qualms about splicing traditional Vietnamese theatre and musical forms, overlaid with globalised commercial technology, with popular Vietnamese music and contemporary images. As Le Quy states ‘we integrate traditional and contemporary culture in a new content and form to ensure, on the one hand, that we don’t lose the beauty of tradition, but on the other hand, to make tradition take on new contemporary concepts.’ In revitalising traditional performance techniques and in his quest for a new sense of national identity imbued through cultural experiences, Le Quy’s work has resonances with the political uses made of Chèo, Tuong, and Cai luong in the 1930s by French–educated intellectuals, disseminating notions of resistance against colonial forces to a more general public. Traditional Vietnamese theatre practices have been used for nationalistic purposes at numerous times throughout Vietnamese history due to their deeply rooted recognition as popular entertainment and resulting in the many waves of renewal that these forms have absorbed since their early beginnings.