The languages of Shakespeare and Dickens are pretty difficult even for a native English speaker to understand — how did the local audience perceive Macbeth last year?
Macbeth was very well-received by all audience members. The story is well-known and through choreography, music and gestures most were able to follow with little problem.
Of all Dickens’ works, why Oliver Twist?
This year is Dickens’ 200th birthday and this is the Dickens story most people know. It lends itself very well to theatre because of its rather simple plot and is at the same time very socially critical as well as being entertaining.
Oliver Twist has been done many times over the years, what makes TNT’s version special?
We present the play through the eyes of Fagin just before he is hanged on the gallows. He is allowed to tell his side of the story and he accuses Lord Brownlow of being the real criminal, having cast his pregnant daughter on the streets and for supporting the workhouses. Critics have often praised us for this unique approach to the story.
Your plays don’t use subtitles, do you believe it would help the Vietnamese to better understand or possibly attract a higher attendance if you incorporated them?
We feel people concentrate more if they don’t have subtitles to rely on. This gives people, especially Vietnamese theatregoers, the feeling of accomplishment by having understood the play without the crutch of subtitles. I don’t think we lose many by not having them.
Have you ever thought about doing the play entirely in Vietnamese with Vietnamese actors?
This is not our mission, although our director Paul Stebbings has often directed in foreign languages — Russian, Chinese and Spanish.
What difficulties, if any, have you faced bringing these performances into Vietnam?
I can’t say we faced any difficulties, just the normal struggles of anyone trying to get established.
Vietnam has a strong censorship policy, has anything in Oliver Twist been changed or omitted because of this?
Nothing has been changed because of censorship. The script was accepted as submitted.
Have you or TNT thought about actually starting a theatre group/company in Vietnam?
The answer is not a simple yes or no. We are a travelling theatre organisation, which, in a literal sense, has no home anywhere. As a producer I put together plays in three languages — English, Spanish and French — with English accounting for more than 90 percent of the performances.
In the course of over 30 years of producing I have at times used actors from over 20 countries as varying as China, Zimbabwe, Israel, Spain, Norway, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Brazil etc. By not tying ourselves down to any one place we are very flexible and able to move our productions quickly to different countries across the world. Our base is, of course, Europe where the productions originate, but we are in no way tied to Europe.
Oliver Twist will be playing at the Saigon Opera House on May 2, 3, 4 and 5 at 8pm, with 11am shows on May 2, 3 and 4. Tickets are VND600,000 / adult and VND300,000 / students and can be purchased at the Saigon Opera House or ordered by email at email@example.com.
There will also be a performance at the Da Nang Theatre on May 9 in Da Nang, and at the Hanoi Opera House on May 11 and 12 at 8pm.