Chèo – which is quite strange to foreign tourists in Vietnam, but it is considered as an indispensable part of Vietnamese spirit. Among the Vienam’s treasure of folk culture and art, Cheo is classified into theatre-type for its unique special features containing: singing, dancing, music, and drama.
Ninh Binh province (in old time located the Hoa Lu citadel) was the root of Cheo, and its founder was Mrs. Phạm Thị Trân, a very talent balad singer in the royal of Dinh dynasty in century 10th. Since then, this art has been popularized in the North delta, and most spreading out in Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces.
The development of Cheo was significantly altered thanks to a Chinese soldier captured in century 14th. This soldier was a former actor and he put the Chinese opera into Cheo. Since then, Cheo has been developed with more lyrics, rhythm. Until century 18th, Cheo was blossomed in the rural area of Vietnam and reached at its peak in century 19th. Among this period, many masterpieces of Cheo were born such as: Tale of Lady Thi Kinh, Luu Binh Duong Le, Kim Nham, Truong Vietn etc., which were mostly affected by the Chinese stories.
Nowadays, Chèo sân đình (perform on the communal house of the village) is still preserved and developed in Northern provinces in Vietnam. With a very simple stage, often be a sedge mat, a simple background cloth, actors & actress, bandsmen, perfectly make a Cheo performance.
Existing in parallel with Chèo sân đình is Chèo Cải Lương, which was renovated by Nguyen Dinh Nghi – a famous actor in century 20th. The episode “8 laughing times” (Vietnamese named: Tám trận cười) is his most famous work.
The most things that help you to recognize Chèo are its characters. There always a humorous character (the clown), a hero, and a heroine in every Chèo. The sound of the Cheo drum has a magical power and upon hearing it, villagers cannot resist coming to see the play. The clown in a cheo play seems to be a supporting role, but actually he or she is very important to the performance. The clowns present a comic portrayal of social life, with ridiculous, satirical words and gestures; they put the audience to tears of laughter. Besides, there will be the fighting between the good and the evil and the good will win after-all. Chèo always attached to personal feelings of human: the love, the friendship and the sense of mercy.
Visit Hanoi, let’s see this performance of Cheo at Hanoi Cheo Theater at No. 15 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Hai Ba Trung dist.
Opening times: 8.00AM ~ 19.00PM every day.