Indian epic Mahabharata to be staged in Hanoi

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Actors rehearse for a new version of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The show will be performed in Hanoi's Youth Theater on July 16.

A thought-provoking dance based on the sacred Sanskrit epic, "Mahabharata," will be performed in Hanoi on July 16, offering local audiences a chance to discover the richness of India's Hindu culture.

Directed by one of Japan's top choreographers and writers, Hiroshi Koike, the project is a collaboration between Cambodian, Japanese and Malaysian artists.

Mahabharata, which means "Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty" in Sanskrit, is one of the two great epic poems of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.

These epics are an important source of information on the development of Hinduism between 400 BCE and 200 CE. The Mahabharata is regarded by Hindus as both a text about dharma (moral law) and an itihasa (a history).

The Mahabharata presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity; and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India's culture, says a description on the website of the Brown University.

"It definitely is one of those creations of human language and spirit that has traveled far beyond the place of its original creation and will eventually take its rightful place on the highest shelf of world literature beside Homer's epics, the Greek tragedies, the Bible, Shakespeare, and similarly transcendent works," it says.

In 1989, director Peter Brook created the staging for this world's largest epic.

The nine-hour long performance shocked the theater market at that time. In 2013, Hiroshi Koike challenges this epic again.

Koike, president of the Japan-based Performing Arts Institute, has directed 55 theatrical shows and built a solid reputation through his work with artists around the world.

In 2012 he closed his theater company and launched the Hiroshi Koike Bridge Project, which aims to unite people from different countries through the performing arts.

The characters in the Mahabharata will be performed mainly by Cambodian actors skilled at traditional dance, backed by a Japanese Bali dancer, a Japanese ballet dancer and a Malaysian Butoh dancer.  Each performer will play several roles by changing their masks.

The story will be delivered mainly through physical movements topped with some music and summary of the story on screen.

The performance is part of a co-operation project between Japan's Hiroshi Koike Bridge Project, Cambodia's Amrita Performing Arts and the Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam.

As it is a long text, the whole performance is made up of a trilogy. The first chapter was performed in Cambodia July 12 and 13, followed by more dance performances in Vietnam next week. Chapter two will take place in India next year and the final one in Japan in 2015.

The performance in Vietnam will begin 7:30 p.m. at the Tuoi Tre (Youth) Theater, 11 Ngo Thi Nham Street, Hanoi.

Admission is free but audiences are require to obtain tickets in advance at the Japan Foundation, 27 Quang Trung Street, Hoan Kiem District (tel: 04. 3944 7419).


Tetsuro Koyano of Japan as Bhima, Bhishma, Pandu, Kuru

Sachiko Shirai of Japan as Kunti, Shakuni, Kuru

Phon Sopheap (Pheap) of Cambodia as Yudhisthira, Bakasura, Drupada, Kuru

Chumvan Sodhachivy (Belle) of Cambodia as Draupadi, Bakasura, Ganga,  Kuru

Khon Chansithika (Mo) of Cambodia as Nakula, Karna, Madri, Kuru

Khiev Sovannarith (Tonh) of Cambodia as Arjuna, Dhritarashtra, Kuru

Lee Swee Keong of Malaysia as Duryodhana, Shantanu

More information on Hiroshi Koike's Mahabharata can be found at

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