“Kép” is a term to describe male characters. Their appearances tend to be young or middle aged male, with a light makeup face (using beard to distinguish).

(Đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt tại đây)

“Kép” is a term to describe male characters. Their appearances tend to be young or middle aged male, with a light makeup face (using beard to distinguish). This is a simple makeup style, reserved for characters that are handsome, or ordinary; they tend to be the psychological character that doesn’t need dramatic makeup to express their personality. Following the kép motif is the type of singing technique- with graceful and sophisticated dialogues. The common characters from kép motif (or can be called “kép in white”) are Tiết Đinh San, Tiết Ứng Luông (the play “The Goddess that offers Ngũ Linh flag”) Bá Ấp Khảo (the play “Bá Ấp Khảo”); etc.

Character Lữ Bố played by Hà Trí Nhơn

In a deeper level, kép motif is constructed distinctively in their level 2 category:


Is a character motif that is based on the characteristics of kép motif (kép in white), however, the base makeup colour of the character tends to be in bright red or reddish pink. This is the character type that is loyal and determined in hát bội aesthetic. Example: Quan Vũ (the play “Battle at Phàn fortress”); Đổng Kim Lân (the play “San Hậu”); Cao Hoài Đức (the play “Sentencing Trịnh Ân”), etc.

Character Quan Vũ played by Minh Khương

Character Đổng Kim Lân played by Linh Hiền


Their face makeup tends to be in faded gray or green; with high eyes and brows (depends on the traditional character design of the region and the troup). This character type tends to have a peasantry manner, down-to-earth, with the colour palette of faded gray and green to indicate a humbling origin as a farming man. Example: Khương Linh Tá (the play “San Hậu”); Châu Sáng (the play “Losing Nam Dương fortress”); etc.

Character Khương Linh Tá palyed by Bảo Châu


Is a kép motif that has more than just the general traits, but also a more extravagant styling in costuming. They have a red face makeup base; with a white eyes and dramatic eyebrows that are high up to the temple. This dramatic appearance only reflects their extraordinary characters for a teenage boy. Namely characters like Phàn Diệm (the play “San Hậu”); or the character Trịnh  n (the play “Sentencing Trịnh  n”) that is also a part of kép with angry eyes, but he would have a face makeup colour base in ashy gray or black. This genre of kép with angry eyes, or can be called as “young kép” is often paired with an older character (could be their father- like the characters Phàn Định Công, Trịnh  n), their extraordinary appearance foreshadowing the talents that would emerge once they are matured.

Character Phàn Diệm played by Hoàng Tuấn

There are other kép motif branches such as water kép, kép in white, intellectual kép, mix kép, young kép, etc. but these characters are not often portrayed or not so significant in the script. (To be continued) 


TYPE OF CHARACTERS IN VIETNAMESE HÁT BỘI, co-produced by Hiếu Văn Ngư – Cultura Fish and ICHCAP. Please give proper citation and do not repost by any type. 

  • Researcher: Vương Hoài Lâm 
  • Translator (Vietnamese – English): Hà Hoàng Minh Trang
  • Editor: Lục Phạm Quỳnh Nhi 
  • Photos: Giang Phạm 



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