One of the great things about living in Vientiane is that you get the opportunity to see world-class performing art, theatre and music for free. Yes, you heard that right, for free. Or at minimal cost, at least.
The reason is to encourage Lao nationals to attend these events. In particular, Lao youth, to help share, encourage, and foster enthusiasm for the creativity and imagination of literature, art, music and theatre.
Last month, the Korean National Ballet company came to Vientiane and we saw a spectacular show of dance, drama and music. The giant Lao Cultural Hall was packed with people even standing at the sides (ignore that fire hazard). We arrived early and got good seats but even so, had Maya switching between laps. It was totally worth it.
And this month, we'll see the return of something really special - the first Lao translated production of Shakespeare in A Midmonsoon Night's Dream.
The play premiered last month and ran for 5 nights to a packed audience and rave reviews. It's the first and only production of Shakespeare to be performed in English, French and Lao.
Writer and director Thiane Khamvongsa is a playwright, director and comedian. She was born to Lao parents but grew up in France. In 2009, she started her own theatre company, Beasts on the Moon, and in 2010, wrote, directed and acted in an award-winning play, Goodbye Country.
In this "freely adapted" version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Thiane transposes its forest scenery to an imaginary Vientiane, full of Lao animist folklore. This is the general plot:
"Vanida loves Somleth who loves Dokmai who loves Viengsay who loves her in return but can not marry her because she is promised to Somleth who broke her engagement to Vanida since he fell in love with Dokmai. Viengsay and Dokmai decide to flee and are chased by Somleth - himself chased by Vanida - into the forest. There, chief mischief-maker Puck is on-hand to ensure that the course of true love is anything but smooth..."
And if you understand all of that without writing it down, you've done better than me. But the old bard did love a twisty tale.
Thiane hopes to take the play around Laos later in the year, after its namesake monsoon season. It's such a unique opportunity - A Shakespearian production delivered in Lao (and French and English) and recreated in a magical version of Vientiane.
For now, you can see it in Vientiane for 3 days only this week - 27-29th June at the Institut Francais. Don't miss it.
A Midmonsoon Night’s Dream is performing at the Institut Francais on Lane Xiang Avenue, Vientiane. Reservations can be made through their website.
All images are courtesy of Thiane Khamvongsa and A Midmonsoon Night’s Dream.