Chèo

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Hát chèo performance in Ninh Bình province

Chèo is a form of generally satirical musical theatre, often encompassing dance, traditionally performed by Vietnamese peasants in northern Vietnam. It is usually performed outdoors by semi-amateur touring groups, stereotypically in a village square or the courtyard of a public building, although it is today increasingly also performed indoors and by professional performers.

Hát chèo's origins date to the 12th century during the Lý Dynasty and has existed in its present form since roughly the 16th century. It derives from folk traditions, and was orally transmitted; unlike courtly theater traditions, it employs no scenery and sparse costumes and makeup. It involves a combination of traditional set pieces and improvisational routines appropriate to amateur theatre. Like the Commedia dell'arte, it often carries of a message of satirical criticism of the existing social order. The traditional musical ensemble consisted of fiddle, flute, and drum, though in modern recreations more instruments are used.

A scene featuring hát chèo may be seen in the 2002 Vietnamese film Mê Thảo, Thời Vang Bóng (The Glorious Time in Me Thao Hamlet), directed by Việt Linh.

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