Lord of the Rings with poetry

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British troupe hopes to present a unique theatrical event with "˜King Lear'
 
  Scenes from Shakespeare's "˜King Lear', directed by Paul Stebbings, now playing in Vietnam. Photos courtesy of The American Drama Group Europe.

A tragedy of epic proportions is coming to stages in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Shakespeare's "King Lear" is being presented in Vietnam by TNT Theater, a company famous for producing many successful stage adaptations of the Bard's creations in Europe and Asia.

In Vietnam, the theater shot to fame with traditional stage performances, especially its forte Shakespeare's plays. TNT has garnered a great amount of audience interest here, especially among expats, since its first presentation of "Romeo and Juliet" in 2009.

In the following years, TNT wowed audiences with "Macbeth," "A Christmas Carol" and "Oliver Twist". Although there are several new-born troupes in Ho Chi Minh City like Dragonfly and Saigon Players that have gathered expats with a love for the theater and put on English plays in Ho Chi Minh City, TNT still stands out.

In this version of "King Lear" TNT actors will play the cello, violin and percussion instruments themselves, not to mention sing.

Paul Stebbings, TNT's award winning director told Vietweek that the language barrier was definitely not a big problem for his troupe in approaching local audiences.

"We are aware that it is new to bring professional English language theater to Vietnam and that attracting local audiences is a big job but we are trying and this is our fifth production in your country we aim to attract a wide audience just as we do in other countries in Europe and Asia."

"We know that if local audiences with low levels of English do attend they will enjoy and understand the production because it is so visual and musical; and we have scene subtitles to explain in Vietnamese what is happening"

Grantly Marshall, head of American Drama Group Europe which is producing "King Lear" in Vietnam, told Vietweek that the play usually does not need classic subtitles, as it can be understood through spectacular imagery and music.

"We have scene subtitles we do not like word for word subtitles as they prevent audiences from watching the play properly - we think that is the way forward in Vietnam. Understanding the story, rather than translating every word. But above all, theater is a language just as I enjoy Vietnamese water puppetry we all understand emotion, gesture and action and of course music," Stebbings says.

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Both Stebbings and Marshall have great expectations for their show in Vietnam.

"We would like it to be full! If it happens we will be happy if not we hope that those who do come will enjoy this exciting drama and tell their friends to come," Stebbings said.

He noted that "King Lear" is one of Shakespeare's longest plays ever, lasting nearly three hours.

""˜King Lear' is quite a long play but that is what Shakespeare wrote and we have such an exciting and dynamic version that time flies by someone said it was like "˜Lord of The Rings' with poetry" Stebbings said.

They have come to Vietnam many times, but Marshall and Stebbings said that they have never watched any other English theater in Vietnam.

"I think most theater here has been amateur and, although I like to be modest, TNT is perhaps the most successful touring theater in the world touring to over 30 countries in 3 continents this year. We are very honored and happy to be guests of a country with so long and rich a culture as Vietnam."

The title character of "King Lear"descends into madness after foolishly disposing of a king's estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Shakespeare's original version is particularly noted for its exploratory observations on the essence of human suffering and kinship.

The tragedy will be performed at the HCMC Opera House, 7 Lam Son Square, District 1, October 26-28 and the Hanoi Opera House, 1 Trang Tien Street, on October 30-31, starting at 8 p.m. There will be an additional show starting at 11 a.m. on October 25-26.

Tickets costing VND600,000 (US$30) for adults and VND300,000 for students are now available at the HCMC Opera House, the Hanoi Opera House and the Vietnam Performing Arts Center (Department of Performing Arts Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism), 6th Floor, 32 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.

For further information, contact Mr. Hoang Phan of the Vietnam Performing Arts Center at (04) 3 747 8658 or 090 413 8495.

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