The Healing Arts

Under Construction: more to be added

Kiều and her warrior husband Từ Hải
Othello and Desdemona

In Vietnamese: Nỗi Đau Nhân Loai

Written by Lê Duy Hanh, Directed by Shaun MacLoughlin

Translated by Tran Thi Quy and then polished by Shaun MacLoughlin

Assistant Director: Khánh Hoàng

In each of these works there is a hero or heroine – Othello or Kiều – a victim – Desdemona or Từ Hải – and a villain – Iago or Hồ Tôn Hiến.

The play combines Western and traditional Vietnamese theatrical styles. It was performed enthusiastically in English by Vietnam’s leading actors and by the Saigon Dance School.

It opened at the Small Stage Theatre Company, 5b Vo Van Tan Street, Saigon in 2001.

It was praised by the multinational United Nations Peace Meditation Group and in November 2002 was chosen to represent Vietnam at the first International Experimental Festival in Hanoi.

Shaun had great fun coaching the Vietnamese actors to speak clear and attractive Shakespearian English.

The United Nations Peace Meditation Group attended a performance and made the following comments:
Salil Wilson, Sydney, Australia
The stories that interweave in your play demonstrate poignantly the frailties of human nature. No matter what nationality we are, your play will resonate around the world.
Sipra Lloyd, Adelaide, Australia
I was struck by how the cast were able to portray such passionate emotions in English. There is a real ring of truth about the play. It is so well written that the audience immediately identify with the theme, that in spite of our differences, we can unite our cultures.
Ketan Tamn, New York, USA
The author and director meld the traditional Vietnamese and Western stories. The staging is truly imaginative. The audience were enthralled by what might happen next; for example by the use of silk bands to convey the river, by the beauty of the dancing and by the miming of the shooting of the arrow. I love your culture and particularly when I saw your evil Iago character, I longed for more Vietnamese culture and language.
Olga Keenan, Russia
I am Russian and English is my second language; so I was really impressed by how the actors mastered the English.  Also as an architect by training, I found it wonderful how the dynamic movement and arrangement of the props and the decoration were combined to tell the story.
Darsha Kelly, Glasgow, Scotland
I would like to suggest that you organize workshops across the world with the Vietnamese actors and dancers.  Also you could involve expatriate Vietnamese communities and so give their culture back to them.
Khokan Fulop, Budapest, Hungary
I think the Vietnamese chorus is very effective. They reminded me of the traditional Greek chorus, in the way that they danced and moved. Audiences will also identify with the way you use masks. I love Shakespeare.  In his tragedies he was fascinated by fate. It is very interesting to see how the Vietnamese writer is also fascinated by fate
Jason Devashishu, London, England
It was really nice to hear Shakespeare so far away from home.    The main actors, the two couples, portrayed tremendous emotion; especially by their actions. Kieu’s  expression was amazing, especially her sorrow and remorse.  The Vietnamese King spoke perfectly. I could understand every word. He brought Vietnam into the English language.  Thank you for a fantastic experience
Lady member from USA
In the opening bars of music and in the initial staging there was so much universality that words became secondary.
Director: Lê Duy Hạnh
Quốc Thảo as the Chorus
Khánh Hoàng as Othello

The Script of The Healing Arts

The Cast
Othello Khánh Hoàng 
Từ Hải Văn Thành
Desdemona Hồng Vân
Kiều Tuyết Thu
Iago, Ho Ton Hien and the Chorus with three faces* Quốc Thảo
Composer Trương Đức Trí
 
  1. * His normal face.
  2. * A traditional Vietnamese mask when playing Ho Ton Hien.
  3. * A traditional Italian mask when playing Iago

Production Notes

  • The chorus will link the two strands of the play that are performed in Vietnamese and in English. The play will be performed in such a way that both audiences will understand and be entertained
  • The chorus will guide the audience, linking the worlds of Othello and Kieu.
  • Because the style of the play will be one of improvisation and will depend on the director’s interpretation and the actors’ performances, the part of the chorus has not yet been completed.
  • Vital decorations are:
  1. Two bands of silk, used constantly throughout the performance, creating different spaces and linking different scenes. They will be manipulated by dancers
  2. The torch, symbolizing the light of Art.
  3. A church bell stage right and a Pagoda bell stage left, which will be tolled to represent the passing through space and time from a Christian to a Buddhist culture and back again,
Hồng Vân as Desdemona
Tuyết Thu as Kieu
Kieu with Tu Hai
Othello and Iago

Khai Từ / The Prologue

The stage is decorated with the two bands of silk

THE CHORUS Ladies and Gentleman. We are the Chorus
CHORUS 2 (A DANCER) The Chorus
CHORUS 3 (A DANCER) The Chorus
CHORUS 4 (A DANCER) The Chorus
CHORUS In our hands we hold two masks When I wear this one I become?
CHORUS MEMBERS Who?
CHORUS The evil Mandarin, Ho Ton Hien And when I put this one on, I turn into?
CHORUS MEMBERS Who?
CHORUS Shakespeare’s villain Iago. Ladies and Gentle-men, tonight, we, who present this play, should like to wish you a warm welcome .
Othello by William Shakespeare and the Tales of Kieu by Nguyen Du are two of the world’s great masterpieces. Tonight we shall see how each of these great works of art may cast light on each other.
Thus through the drama of Othello and of his innocent wife, Desdemona, on the one hand and of the beautiful Kieu and of her warrior husband, Tu Hai, on the other, we learn that in every age, in Nguyen Du’s eighteenth century Vietnam and in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan England, those of us who are truthful and loving have to be forever on our guard against such deceitful and brutal men as Ho Ton Hien and Iago.
(MUSIC.  OTHELLO AND DESDEMONA HAND OVER THE PIECE OF WHITE SILK TO KIEU AND TU HAI) The band of white silk symbolises openness and sincerity. It links Othello’s fate with that of Kieu.
(MUSIC.  THE CHORUS USE THE PIECE OF BLACK SILK AS A DARK RIVER WHICH WANTS TO SUBMERGE THE CHARACTERS.) The band of black silk symbolises the evil and brute ugliness of such men as Ho Ton Hien and Iago.
(ACCOMPANYING DESDEMONA AND TU HAI, WHO HOLD BETWEEN THEM THE TORCH) The suffering of these two innocents, Desdemona and Tu Hai, who were both put to death, is a symbol of the suffering of all mankind. Today our conscience is stirred by their example and by the illumination of great works of art.
(THE TORCH IS LIT. THE CHORUS WITH THE TWO MASKS OF IAGO AND HO TON HIEN IS TERRIFIED AND TRIES TOI RUN AWAY. OTHELLO, KIEU, DESDEMONA AND TU HAI SURROUND IAGO AND HO TON HIEN WITH THE BANDS OF SILK AND THE TORCH, DRIVING THEM OFF THE STAGE.)
(POINTING AT THE TORCH) This torch represents the power of art to blaze forth in every generation. It expresses the spirit of the actors, who desire to relive with today’s audience “THE HEALING ARTS” by Le Duy Hanh from “THE TLES OF KEIEU” by Nguyen Du and from “OTHELLO” by William Shakespeare. (M
Othello kills Desdemona

The Play Begins

We hear the sad song from Act 4 of Othello

“The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow:
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow:
The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur’d her moans;
Sing willow, willow, willow;
Her salt tears fell from her, and soften’d the stones;

Sing willow, willow, willow;”

Never again should mankind suffer such a tragedy as ours.(HE CALLS) Desdemona! Desdemona! Desdemona!
DURING THE SONG DESDEMONA FLITS PAST LIKE A SHADOW. OTHELLO RUNS AFTER HER, CALLING HER NAME OVER AND OVER
OTHELLO Desdemona I killed you. Like a fool I trusted Iago. I became a monster. I believed too easily and I acted blindly. It is this that created our tragedy. Tell me, will ever forgive me?
DESDEMONA I can never blame you Othello. I love you.
OTHELLO
IAGO Othello! You created the drama yourself. You may be dead, but you have not changed one iota. As long as mankind exists, until the end of time, there will always be blind believers like you and people like me, who make fools of them.You see! In the Extreme Orient, there is a man who is very different from me in appearance, but at heart we are the same.
CHORUS  We all know of the harm that Iago did to Othello and Desdemona. They are not of our time, but today their story is still performed in many countries.
 Iago was right. Almost two hundred years after Othello, there was a character very similar to his own in the work “The Tales of Kieu”.  He was Ho Ton Hien, the Emperor’s evil ambassador.
Iago took advantage of Othello’s credulity to create the tragedy of love between Othello and Desdemona.
In the same way Ho Ton Hien betrayed Kieu’s trust and plotted to kill her husband Tu Hai. Tu Hai was a great rebel leader, who resisted the Imperial Court and who conquered a large swaithe of the Country. Also Tu Hai rescued Kieu from her life as a prostitute, which she had been tricked into, when she needed to ransom her much loved parents from prison. Tu Hai rescued her from the gutter, from a life of degradation to become his wife, his consort and his queen.
(MUSIC CHANGES, THE CHORUS DONS THE VIETNAMESE STAGE MASK TO BECOME HO TON HIEN. BY USING AGGRESSIVE, ANTIPATHETIC AND HOSTILE GESTURES HE DISPLAYS HIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS TU HAI. THERE IS MUSIC AND A VIEW OF THE BATTLEFIELD. THERE IS A MARTIAL ARTS PERFORMANCE.
Tu Hai victorious in battle
Tu Hai as Emperor

HO TON HIEN

For five years now Tu Hai has conquered all domains. Not all our joint campaigns. Can wrest this country from his hands.

As if he has been Splitting bamboo and breaking slates Tu Hai has defeated states In which his name is famed and feared.

He has proclaimed himself an Emperor

Thus all the breadth and length Of the empire’s souther half he disciplines.

Well sharpened by the sand of war His sword cuts through his petty enemies, Like dummies made from bags of flower.

 

There is no lack of powerful lords And yet before his sword, Who dares resist his sovereignty? But I am clever. Be patient. Be patient. Wait. wait. I have a plan.

(THE DANCERS FORM A TABLEAU OF VIETNAMESE PEASANTS, CARRYING OUT A VARIETY OF RURAL TASKS. WHEN TO HAI, THE GREAT WARRIOR, APPEARS THEY ABASE THEMSELVES.)

Peasants ploughing and sowing rice

TU HAI

Don’t kneel my friends. Don’t kneel. We have fought these wars that all may enjoy equality and justice and freedom.

Please stand. Please stand. Please stand.

Stand straight.

(KIEU TAKES A GOBLET FROM ONE OF THE DANCERS AND OFFERS IT TO TU HAI TO DRINK)

Kieu

KIEU

A woman is but a green and tender vine

And lucky to entwine

Herself around so strong a tree.

Although I could not see

Your triumph till this moment, yet

My heart, since first we met

Was ever confident in you.

TU HAI

My friends, let us celebrate our freedom

Let us be joyful.

(THE PEASANTS DANCE TOGETHER HAPPILY – HO TON HIEN APPEARS UPSTAGE, UNSEEN BY THE OTHERS.

Vietnamese Dancers

HO TON HIEN

I shall overthrow Tu Hai throgh Miss Kieu

I shall send her a secret letter

Playing upon her feelings

To bait the hook to catch Tu Hai

(TU HAI, KIEU AND THEIR SUBJECTS HE PEASANTS DANCE TOGETHER HAPPILY – HO TON HIEN APPEARS UPSTAGE, UNSEEN BY THE OTHERS.U 

HO TON HIEN

Her overweening love will stifle Tu Hai

It will weaken the hero’s resolve.

(HO TON HIEN WRITES A LETTER ON THE BLACK SILK, USING VIETNAMESE, TRADITIONAL CALLIGRAPHY. HE LAUGHS. HE STOPS WRITING. HIS LIGHTS ARE DIMMED. HO TON HIEN AND HIS EVIL CHORUS  PROJECT THE LETTER AT KIEU. SHE READS IT BY THE LIGHT OF A TORCH.. 

Ho Ton Hien writes to Kieu
Vietnamese Calligraphy

KIEU

I have drifted on the waters like a flower

And till this hour

Each day has brought disaster

And should my lord submit,

I shall be free to travel fearlessly

Upon the open road.

 Blessings would be bestowe

Upon the nation. Peace would reign.

As consort of Tu Hai

I should be worthy of respect.

What honour would reflect

On me and on my aged parents too!

 I only want to do

My best for country and for family:

My filial piety

And duty to my Emperor.

HO TON HIEN

 (AGAIN HE LAUGHS AND REPEATS)

Miss Kieu will weakens the hero’s resolve 

(SHE WEEPS. TU HAI ENTERS. SHE HIDES THE LETTER. )

Kieu
Everlasting wars
a time of peace

TU HAI

My beloved. Why are you crying?

KIEU

I am thinking of my parents. I have not been able to honour them as I should.

TU HAI

I shall send my army against the Emperor

We shall grind these tyrants beneath our feet. Then at last you will be able to honour your parents.

KIEU

But this will mean yet more terrible war.

Millions will die. We shall not even be able to bury our dead.

My lord, until now, I have drifted through life,

Like a flower upon the surface of the river. At the mercy of the elements, A soul without a home, A victim of every injustice.But for me and for everybody . . . If the war were ended and we were at peace – at last Thee would be joy in every home.

TU HAI

My beloved. How can there be peace?

KIEU

You should surrender to the Emperor,

Become one of his trusted officials, Use your great skills in the service of our nation.

TU HAI

No. Here I am accustomed to stand straight.

Upon my own two feet.

Should I crawl backwards in the dirt

Before the Mandarins? With head bowed low? No. Here the land and sky are mine Freely to use Exactly as I choose The Emperor cannot dictate to me.

KIEU

I understand, my lord. I understand.

But I implore you,think.

In their hearts my lord ,

All good people long for peace. Think what happiness there’ll be When theses everlasting wars are over. It is only worth living for peace. I tell you solemnly, lord, if you do not listen to me, This foolish, desperate girl will kill herself!

TU HAI

Wait!

(HE THROWS UP HIS HANDS TO RESTRAIN HER)

I agree.

For you, my love, for the sake of peace and for the happiness of our people, I shall do as you say.

KIEU KNEELS AT HIS FEET. THE LIGHTS ARE DIMMED. OTHELLO AND IAGO APPEAR AT THE BACK OF THE STAGE. NEITHER ARE SEEN NOR HEARD BY BY TU HAI AND KIEU.

Statue of the author, Nguyen Du

OTHELLO

Brave man. Do not listen to her honeyed words

IAGO

But Othello we all like to be beguiled by sweet and honeyed words.

OTHELLO

I was Iago’s victim. Now Kieu will become a victim of Ho Ton Hien. Must this pattern forever repeat itself? Oh these sweet, insinuating words! What will happen to this brave man?

IAGO

Silence! What must be must be. Your kindness is less attractive than my wickednes

MUSIC. THE LIGHTS CHANGE. TU HAI IS PERFORMING A CEREMONY OF SURRENDER.


TU HAI

I abandoned warlike thought

And, once decided sought

To meet the envoy formally.

HO TON HIEN

Tu Hai abandoned warlike thought

And, once decided sought

To meet me formally.

TU HAI

We both agreed upon a day

We each disarm our men.

HO TON HIEN

So trusting in my oath

Tu Hai’s troops relaxed their guard.

And I knew my time had come.

I gave my men the signal to attack!

VIOLENT BATTLE IS CHOREOGRAPHED BY THE DANCERS MANIPULATING THE BANDS OF SILK

CHORUS

Like a tiger and a warrior true,

Tu Hai bodly faced his foes, Until his sprit rose To heaven to take his place among the great. He still stands straight.

HO TON HIEN ORDERS HIS ARMY TO SHOOT HIM WITH BOWS AND ARROWS. TU HAI TRIES TO DEFEND HIMSELF. 

HE DIES STANDING.

OTHELLO

This valiant man died a victim of injustice, but he stands tall in heaven. It is the same with Desdemona. Although she is dead I continue to pursue her across the world and throughout the ages.

IAGO


Othello – look! Kieu is created in your image!

In her and in people yet to exist – you will continue to commit – and bitterly to repent – the same mistakes. The pattern will always repeat itself. The circle will not be broken. Kieu is your reincarnation

OTHELLO

You are a serpent! A loathsome creature.

HE CHASES IAGO, WHO MOCKS AND LAUGHS AT HIM.

Tu Hai's death from a Vietnamese opera

KIEU

(SHE FALLS WEEPING AT THE FEET OT TU HAI)

Tu Hai – my husband you had such wisdom and courage.

But you listened to me, to your foolish love.

I prostrate myself before you, to beg forgiveness for the outcome of our love for each other.

I should like to play upon the lute to soothe your soul upon its journey.

And now my time has come.

I must join my husband.

The fatal river will convey me to another life.

Kieu plays the Ho guitar
KIEU PLAYS THE MUSIC (SHE STRUMS UPON THE  SILK IN THE SHAPE OF A LUTE).

THEN SHE RUNS WITH HER LUTE TO THE TIEN DUONG RIVER.

THE BANDS OF SILK CREATE THE EFFECT OF RISING WINDS AND WAVES.

HOLDING THE LUTE SHE SINKS BENEATH THE WAVES
Kieu drowning , from a painting by Roy Lichtenstein

OTHELLO

No, Kieu, you shall not die. You shall not suffer my fate . You shall not end as I did. Must Iago always be allowed to reign over us? Shall be be permitted to wreak such havoc and in such a far country? Can it be possible?

IAGO

That is indeed the reality.

I exist in another country and in every age.

OTHELLO KNEELS AND PRAYS

OTHELLO

Noble river, if you understand then listen to my prayer.

Destroy this vicious circle of evil. Give help to the good and to the virtuous, so that mankind may grow in peace and find happiness.

I have repented for many long years. Good must never again be allowed to do bad. If beauty destroys itself, then what hope is there for mankind?

Desdemona’s and my life will last forever. But its first bloom, its first beauty has been blighted. That can never be restored.

River, use your thousand white horses to bear up the lovely Kieu.

Save her from drowning.

Bring her back to life.

IAGO

Your prayer is futile, Othello

USING THE BANDS OF SILK, OTHELLO AND IAGO CREATE A VIOLENT BATTLE, SYMBOLISING THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. OTHELLO RESCUES KIEU. HE DISENTANGLES HER FROM THE RIBBON OF SILK. THE WAVES BECOME GENTLE AND CALM. IAGO GRABS ONE END OF THE SILK RIBBON. THE WAVES BECOME TREMENDOUSLY VIOLENT. BUT THEN – IN THE BACKGROUND – SHE SUCCEEDS IN RISING ABOVE THE SURFACE. IN THE END IAGO IS DEFEATED. THE WAVES ARE CALM. THE STORM ABATES. KIEU FLOATS. THE WAVES BRING HER CALMLY TO THE RIVER BANK. SHE IS HALF AWAKE, HALF ASLEEP.

To be continued

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