Theatre characters in hát bội have an important function for the technical elements.

(Đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt tại đây)

For the current structure, the art of staging performance consists of literary elements (nhân tố văn học), technical elements (kỹ thuật biểu hiện), and performance elements (nghệ thuật diễn xuất). With literature, or script literature – being the core factor to determine the success of a stage play. Script literature being the original plot of the play, noting all the needed elements of a theatrical performance genre such as plot, actions, characters, languages, space and time. All those genres formed a core spirit and foundation of the vibrant and animated scene of performance art. On the other hand, the technical elements as a system includes vehicles from different visual performances (drama, opera, ballet) that portray the aesthetic and humane values of staging performances. If the script and technical elements are the crucial factors to form a proper staging performance, then the performance element is the creative space for the director to work on their choreography work, and the art performance of the actors. All thanks to the performance element, it has made the theatrical story successful and timeless in the audiences’ hearts.

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Actors and actresses from archival project “Types of characters in Vietnamese Hat Boi”, co-produced by ICHCAP and Cultura Fish.

 Along with the similar structure, the traditional staging performance of Vietnam named hát bội (or also known as tuồng, hát bộ) also exhibits the three traits named above. For the staging performance of hát bội, characters hold a crucial factor. Without the characters, other elements such as plot, actions, dialogues…won’t be expressed fully. Unlike Western theatre, the character’s delivery relies on the performer’s personal experiences to transform it into theatrical actions, dialogues, the art of hát bội is a part of Eastern narrative theatre, where it has the influences of distinctive symbolism in a stylistic manner. Therefore, the characters are not simply a reflection of the vibrant reality, but also an essential selection of different characteristics and a range of human values. In sum, aside from the function of participating in the plot, theatre characters in hát bội have an important function for the technical elements.

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Character Khương Linh Tá (played by Bảo Châu)

The technical elements of hát bội, according to Professor Hoàng Châu Ký- is a part of the “motif” method (phương pháp “mô hình hoá”). Following this definition, the author categorised hát bội into different motifs of characters, musical-dialogue performance, choreography, costume and the technical elements of space and time. In order to methodised the character system of hát bội, we can dissect them into four layers of symbolism. As each symbolic layer will provide distinguished attributions of the character model. From then, the performers can have the relevant information to choose the appropriate motifs of musical-dialogue performance, choreography and costume.

As such, characters in Vietnamese hát bội can be divided into motifs: kép, lão, đào, mụ, nịnh, tướng – yêu đạo. In order to learn about all the character motifs, you can follow these article below:  

  1. “Kép” motif:
  2. “Lão” motif:
  3. “Đào” and ”mụ” motifs:
  4. The villains: “nịnh”, “tướng” (villains), “yêu đạo”:


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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