In February 2019, the Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam will bring its show Lang Toi to Australia for Perth Festival. The Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam previously performed AO Show at the Perth Festival in 2017. We had a long chat with Tuan Le, the company’s director.
The second part of this interview will be published next Monday, 17 December.
What are the challenges of bringing a show like Lang Toi like Australia?
I think Australia is a very interesting country in terms of culture and the interest in culture of other people and other ethnicities. I think the challenge is we are able to bring our shows without any translation, that people will come into the show and they also can see – not just watching an interesting circus show – but also can feel the emotions of the artists onstage. I think the emotions of the artists of the people is very similar in theworld. I think it’s just the interpretation. I think that’s why AO Show was very successful in Perth last year.
And this year also, because, if you go to see Lang Toi, it’s about the memories of childhood – Lang Toi was my first creation and I was 21years old. My eyes at that time were about how I could remember the childhood of Vietnam and how I could get the inspiration of the artists, the musicians fromthe North Vietnam so that I could create the show. I would say it is a little bit like a fairy tale of Vietnam if you are not familiar with the culture of Vietnam. I think that Lang Toi of all my shows is one of the most poetic shows that I have ever created.
There’s also a lot of bamboo in the show?
For over 10 years now, bamboo cirque is the brand and identity of Vietnamese circus. We were able to create to our creation and of course Lang Toi was the first one. It’s not only the object that they use to decorate the stage. We are able to invent new circus techniques with those elements and sometimes if they are not – sometimes the bamboo is the main character of the show.
Do you bring the bamboo from Vietnam or is it locally sourced wherever you perform?
No we bring from Vietnam. We bring all the props from Vietnam. The whole set is made out of bamboo. Nothing with metal, nothing with wood. So the entire show is with bamboo.
Out of curiosity, how many languages do you speak? You speak English obviously, you speak Vietnamese, you speak German having lived in Germany –
Yeah perfectly. Even better than my English.
You speak Russian.
I could speak common words in Russian.
And a little bit of French? That’s five any others?! That’s quite a few.
No. that’s it.
I think the same thing like my goal in this world is really to bring the aesthetic throughout my shows and to bring a language to the world that doesn’t need any translation. That people can come, and sometimes youdon’t need to understand but you can feel it. You can sense the idea, the humour, the aesthetic of Vietnam. This is the main work that I am doing.
The show contains songs sung in Vietnamese, without translation, doesn’t it?
Yeah. Not at all. The music is the soul of our shows. We use all of the traditional instruments but we don’t play any of the regular traditional songs – we use a little bit of the beginning and let the musicians improvise and create their own music. Maybe Nhat Ly didn’t tell you the story about the music but it is very interesting. All of our shows are created by music. None of the pieces of music are written on the paper. It is all about the discussion with Nhat Ly with the musicians and selecting the instrument but more or less, creating ambience and environment with that instrument. In all of our shows, the musicians are playing with their feeling and their imagining which creates the music for our show. I think it’s very rare and maybe nowhere else in the world would do that. It happens in all of our shows.
So if I saw the show on two different nights, the music would be slightly different depending on themood of the musician?
So there are 5 musicians and 15 circus artists.
Exactly. 5 musicians. We have a very old man who plays Vietnamese guitar and he’s really like the grandpa. After 10 years, in Lang Toi, it’s like a family growing up. They have the oldest person who is more or less like a grandpa and we have a youngster who has just joined the show about 6 months to a year ago. So it’s really like a tradition of a family relationship between Lang Toi now.
Lang Toi was in France and in the theatrical world in France they have a lot of categories for creations such as nouveau cirque or modern dance. When Lang Toi came to France 9 years ago and even until today, they couldn’t decide into which category the show would fit, which is very interesting.
Because of the music and the circus, it’s not easy to decide if it is music or circus?
Exactly. If you are wanting to go to a circus show maybe you are missing something and it is not enough, if you go to the music category, that’s not enough. If you go to the theatrical, that’s also not enough. It’s a creation. I think the creation would be the perfect name for that because it includes everything.
Why should people come to see the show?
Without 75 minutes in all the shows, everybody will watch the show and will come out and will have the feeling that something wonderful is happening, that opens their eyes and gives them hope. One of the French people who came to see my show said a very interesting thing “After seeing Lang Toi, she feels like her heart is being held by someone with their hands. I think that it’s a very good description. You can have a good feeling. It’s not about the spectacular show. It’s a show that could touch your heart. I was very impressed when I heard that with her a few years ago.
There are so many different shows so it must be so difficult to compete especially when you go toa festival and there are so many different things to choose from.
Yes. I think that the most important is the emotion of the show. The emotion can be delivered to the audience when the artists and the performers have that real emotion. In my show it is very important. It’s not written by me but in working with them and when I selected the most interesting characteristics of each performer that would give this real life on stage. Forexample, if someone is going away from the company, another is coming and we need to change the show a little bit depending on the character of that new person or that new musician. We have to change the music when a new musician is coming to us.
All of the people in the show are from Vietnam?
Yes. All the people in Lang Toi are from North Vietnam. Very particular about the culture from North Vietnam. For me, it’s really about the countryside. That’s where I took the inspiration from when I created Lang Toi and the humanity and of course it’s a lot about the trauma and their activity. That’s the foundation of Lang Toi.
The rest of this interview will be published next Monday 17 December.
You can see Lang Toi at Perth Festival from 8 to 17 February with the exception of Monday 11 February.
Adult tickets cost from $36 to $70 plus booking fee. There are discounted tickets available for children, concession card holders and Friends of Perth Festival. Lang Toi tickets are on sale now.
To ask your own questions of the Lang Toi team, there will be a Q&A session at 3:10pm afterthe Saturday 16 February 2pm performance