The Cai Luong play “Beside the starlight” is inspired by the love affair of Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Thi Lo, and recalls the case of Le Chi Vien.
Directed by Hoang Quynh Mai, artist Ngoc Chi adapted from a literary script by Nguyen Van Thinh, and premiered on the evening of May 23 at the Hanoi Opera House. Unlike many plays with the image of national hero Nguyen Trai as the center, the work depicts the person of Mrs. Nguyen Thi Lo – the first female official in Vietnam’s feudal history under the Le So dynasty.
Through the crew’s point of view, she appeared as a strict, disciplined, and respectful scholar. Taking the position of scholarly ceremony under King Le Thai Tong, she devoted a lot of enthusiasm to teaching “learn to eat, learn to speak, learn to pack, learn to open” for court ladies. In the midst of the turbulent Le dynasty, the flattery servants raged, she and her husband single-mindedly kept the rules and regulations of the country but “were powerless to obey”.
The character appeared in most of the scenes, helping the king take care of the harem, teaching King Le Thai Tong… When Nguyen Trai was dissatisfied, from the mandarin to stay in hiding, she decided to stay at the palace, leading to many contradictions, conflicts culminate in the play. In addition to her talent of poetry and virtue, Nguyen Thi Lo is also built as a faithful and loving wife. Because she could not have children, she relied on a maid to take care of Nguyen Trai. The couple’s separation scene contains a lot of love through old resounding sentences.
The team focused on exploiting the Le Chi Vien case at the end. According to Dai Viet history book, Nguyen Thi Lo was accused of killing King Le Thai Tong in Le Chi garden, causing the king’s sudden death. In The calendar of the solstice charter, Phan Huy Chu wrote: “Nguyen Thi Lo went to serve the king, used poison to kill the king”. Husband and wife Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Thi Lo were executed. However, the case still has many unclear points, so later generations created many related anecdotes. The interpretation of the Cai Luong play is similar to many popular theories: Nguyen Thi Lo was not the one to kill the king, the person behind the wrongful conviction of Nguyen Trai’s family was his concubine Thi Anh.
The play scored points through the performances of artists Manh Hung (as Nguyen Trai) and Thuy Dung (as Nguyen Thi Lo). The two people interact, respond well, express their love for a passionate and passionate couple. Each time the two actors ended the show, the audience applauded. In addition, the dance performances in the royal context were beautifully staged.
The stage was decorated with large mats, inspired by the first meeting between Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Thi Lo. Director Hoang Quynh Mai limited the use of podiums, massive pedestals, decorative canvas. Instead, actors make use of body language to express activities in different dimensions.
Legend has it that Nguyen Trai met Nguyen Thi Lo during a walk in Tay Ho, met a young and beautiful mat seller, originally from present day Thai Binh province. He recited a few verses to tease her: “Where is she, selling gon mats? / Not sure if all these mats are still available? / How old is this spring? / Have you been married, how many children?”. Unexpectedly, she sold mats and painted his poems: “I’m selling gon mats in Tay Ho / Why do you ask all of them? / The green spring has just had an odd full moon / My husband doesn’t have any, have children!”. Admiring Thi Lo’s talent, the two are destined.
In 2018, Quynh Mai used to build a book By the starlight for Thai Binh rowing group. “Compared with cheo language, cai luong play deeply embodies the tragedy of husband and wife Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Thi Lo. Thereby, the crew sends a message of kindness that can awaken honesty in any situation,” the director said. . Quynh Mai hopes to bring the play to many provinces, especially Nguyen Trai’s hometown in Hai Duong.
Cai Luong artist Minh Thanh said he had seen many plays about Nguyen Trai in different forms. “Three years ago, the Vietnam Cai Luong Theater also made plays twinkling stars, similar content. However, I like The most beautiful starlight side by the language of dialogue boldly reformed. The cast, from the main to the villain, clearly shows the color of the character. Music, lighting, dance performances are all good, making the audience enjoy. However, the minus point is that Trung Tuan – the actor who plays King Le Thai Tong – is not yet ‘ripe’, inexperienced, and his voice is not inspiring,” said Meritorious Artist Minh Thanh.