The masterpiece “Tale of Kieu” has been the inspiration for many different art forms, including visualisations, drama and the traditional arts, even in ballet and now also puppetry. Therefore, the adaptation of Vietnamese poet Nguyen Du’s most famous work here was a challenge for those who made “Kieu’s Fate”. They had to ponder whether to convey the layers of significance of the “Tale of Kieu” and keep the masterstrokes in the lines of the poetry of the great Nguyen Du while still expressing their own creativity.
People’s Artist Nguyen Tien Dung, who is also the play’s director, said that each play has offered him an opportunity to experiment with new creations and the challenges that the “Tale of Kieu” has brought about became an opportunity for him and crew. In “Kieu’s Fate”, the face and costumes were very expressive. For example, Kieu’s figure evoking the image of dan ty ba (plucked string instrument); Tu Hai’s shape looking like a flag in the battle; Tu Ba’s figure expressing clearly the specific features of procuring trade; Thuc Sinh’s appearance symbolising cowardice; Dam Tien’s image inspiring a luminous musical instrument; and the Buddhist nun Giac Duyen reminded us of a lotus.
The puppet artists "hid” many characters who are closely related to Kieu such as Kim Trong, and Thuy Van. The sections that reflect the years Kieu had to suffer a continuous and great misery and misfortune have been included in the play “Kieu’s Fate”. These were the sections when Kieu decided to sell herself to save her father; was tricked and maltreated by Ma Giam Sinh, Tu Ba and Thuc Sinh; committed suicide and was saved by nun Giac Duyen; and then was deceived by Bac Ba and Bac Hanh and redeemed by Tu Hai. Lastly, she fell into the hands of Ho Ton Hien.
In the play, several characters, whose figure and personality made audiences resent them, became funny in several scenes. This is also a new method in experimental puppetry, where the characters possess both two distinct personalities, sometimes hatefulness and sometimes innocence. The director used the character of the silk seller as a narrator who opened the show, appeared in all dramatic scenes and played the role of making audiences laugh. Another highly expressive character, a pen, also appeared in many sections of the play. It represents poet Nguyen Du and speaks of t his emotions when Kieu’s Fate fell out of his “decisive hand” and drifted away in life.
The puppetry play was successful also thanks to its soundtrack, which is a combination between ancient arts and modernity by musician Nguyen Vinh Tien. In many scenes, the music contributed to making the play uplifting. In addition, the stage design was very impressive with the appearance of the silk ribbons that symbolised the lifetimes of Kieu.
“Kieu’s Fate” was introduced to the audiences at the fourth International Experimental Stage Festival in late 2019. Recent shows have introduced the play widely to audiences, on the occasion of the upcoming 200th anniversary of great poet Nguyen Du as well as in response to the policy of bringing the stage closer to the audience that was launched by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
At the 2019 International Experimental Stage Festival, the play won many important awards, including gold medal for the best play, the best director prize, the best visual artist award and two gold medals and five silvers for best actors and actresses. The play has also created a new approach to performing the rich classical literature treasures of the country.