Communal House Cheo Performance

“Villagers, old and young, male and female, from north to south, west to east, Go to the communal house to eat, To find the Dives’ daughter, named Mau Thi, Who had a wrong love and got into trouble…” These words from the loudspeaker of a Cheo (traditional operetta) troupe urged the residents in Kim Lien Village to flock to the communal house to watch a Cheo performance.

For a long time there has not been such a great event in Kim Lien Communal House (in Phuong Lien Ward, Dong Da District, Hanoi), one of the famous religious works considered the “Four Sacred Temples of Thang Long (the ancient name of Hanoi)”. That night, there was a Cheo programme performed by the Vietnamese Cheo Theatre.

Joining the villagers to go to the communal house to watch the performance, I met Pham Thi Nam who was over 70 years old. She cheerfully said: “In the old days, in the yard of the village communal house there was regularly Cheo singing performed by Cheo troupes of the village or from other areas. But since long ago, there has been no performance. Today hearing the call from the loudspeaker we are very happy, as if we were living in the old days!”

At 7pm the yard of the communal house was packed, with the audience sitting on red sedge mats. The sounds of the drums, cymbals, flutes, two-chord fiddles and monochords drowned the noise of the audience.

A Cheo performance under the project entitled “Echo of a Thousand Years”
takes place at Kim Lien Communal House, Hanoi.

Many extracts of old Cheo pieces are performed at Kim Kien Communal House.

Actress Bao Quynh from the Vietnam Cheo Theatre plays
in the “Thi Mau Len Chua” (Thi Mau Visits the Pagoda) piece.

Artists from the Vietnam Cheo Theatre perform famous Cheo pieces at Kim Lien Communal House.

Instrumentalists at the performance.

The performance alternates with exchanges between the artists and the audience.

That night, the characters such as Xuy Van, Thi Kinh, Thi Mau, Me Dop or the mandarin’s clown in the old Cheo pieces like “Xuy Van Feigns Madness”, “Quan Am Thi Kinh” and “Luu Binh Duong Le” performed on the stage to the admiring cheers of the audience. The villagers enjoyed the ogles of Thi Mau, felt pity for Thi Kinh, who was falsely accused by her mother- in-law Sung, and were half laughing and half crying during the scene in which the whole village fined Thi Mau who loved novice Thi Kinh. The Cheo pieces, whether in the past or at present always features the struggle between good and evil, in which the good always wins, shines and converts the bad and evil. The villagers seemed satisfied seeing a dream of a happy, just, comfortable and perfect life.

     Performing Cheo at the communal house in Kim Lien Village is an activity in the project “Echo of a Thousand Years” organised by the group “I move” in collaboration with the Vietnam Cheo Theatre, to restore the model of Cheo performance at the communal house, a popular form of the art of the old Hanoians.


The performance alternated with the exchange between the artists of the Vietnam Cheo Theatre and the audience. Many Cheo-loving young people were instructed in how to play the roles of Thi Mau, Thi Kinh and the crown by the artists. Dr. Tran Dinh Ngon, who is considered the “King of Cheo” in the North, introduced the history of Cheo, the space of Cheo culture in the past, the values of Cheo contents and the typical and popular plays and excerpts to the audience.

Witnessing the exciting atmosphere of Cheo performance in the yard of the communal house in Kim Lien Village, Dr. Ngon said with emotion: “For those who are devoted to preserving and developing the art of Cheo like us, the enthusiasm of Kim Lien villagers is a very significant gift. Via the Cheo performance here we realize that the art of Cheo singing has a lasting vitality in the mind of the Vietnamese people.”

Cheo is considered the most pure Vietnamese theatrical genre because it is closely connected with the simple and rustic life of the Vietnamese people.

After the success of the performance in Kim Lien Village, the Vietnam Cheo Theatre will increase its performing tours at other communal houses to attract the audience and revive the unique cultural activities of Thang Long land with a thousand years of culture.

Story: Thong Thien – Photos: Viet Cuong