À Ố Làng Phố: Vietnamese Bamboo Circus – Theatre Review

Directed by former Cirque du Soleil choreographer Tuan Le, À Ố Làng Phố is more than just a circus. Leaning towards the performance art side of the scale, À Ố Làng Phố is a love letter to the continuous evolution of Vietnamese society.

À Ố Làng Phố literally translates to ‘village and city’ and it shows, with the set transforming from a small quiet village, into a big busy metropolis. In the beginning, we are shown simplicity with giant bamboo baskets and long large bamboo poles, which surprisingly, have many uses to excel and express the narrative of the production.

Showcasing impressive displays of balance, strength and the captivating wonders of the human body, À Ố Làng Phố has all the bones that a circus is known to have. But the differences that set À Ố Làng Phố apart from the rest are obvious; À Ố Làng Phố has heart.

With 16 acrobats and no less than 5 musicians playing traditional instruments, À Ố Làng Phố is a tribute to Vietnamese culture in the most passionate and loving way possible. Even if you have never been to Vietnam, you are a taken on a journey through Vietnamese life.

À Ố Làng Phố is constantly changing before our eyes, with scenes from walking through the busy city streets of Vietnam, to displaying disgruntled neighbours, the show is light-hearted yet extremely enriching. Watching the cast use bamboo to form a scene of a woman climbing mountains, a paddle and a group of people on small boat upon the ocean, a construction site, an army of frogs, to a padding of mischievous ducks, À Ố Làng Phố seamlessly conjure vivid worlds out of the simplest objects, and it is visually stunning to witness. Not only is À Ố Làng Phố ingeniously creative and captivating to watch, but it’s funny too. Even though the dialogue of the show is spoken entirely in Vietnamese, the emotions and messages behind these performances couldn’t be clearer.

Although every portion of the performance was impressive, a highlight would be when one acrobat spins in a giant broken bamboo basket, the usual tricks with a typical giant metal ring, but with the bamboo on one side. Although fitting with the theme and visually aesthetic, having the ring have one side with bamboo forces the acrobat to only be able use the ring in a certain way, which turned out to be breathtaking.

Providing even some audience interaction within the remarkable 70-minute show, I am glad that there was no interval, as it would have taken away from the enchanting immersive cultural experience.

À Ố Làng Phố took me on a journey through Vietnam without me ever leaving my seat. I love how raw and real the production is. Not only has it exposed me to Vietnamese music and culture, which I want to learn more about. But it has inspired me to visit Vietnam. À Ố Làng Phố is a must-see before it leaves Melbourne.

À Ố Làng Phố is playing at Art Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre as part of the ASIA TOPA Festival from February 27 to 29.
For more information, visit: https://www.asiatopa.com.au

Photography by Nguyen The Duong.

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