The most remarkable thing about the Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam, was the way in which absolutely nobody cared if you photographed it or even shot video.
The performance itself, one of the “must do” attractions in Hanoi, was only vaguely interesting. It’s an hour long display of an art form originally developed by rice farmers as a way to entertain one another after their fields flooded. Staged in a pool of waste-deep water, wooden puppets (controlled via submerged poles manipulated by puppeteers hidden behind a screen) act out tales of rural Vietnamese folklore.
Perhaps it was because I was unfamiliar with the legends or because I couldn’t follow the stories performed in Vietnamese, but, for whatever reason, I found that despite the theatrics on stage my attention kept turning back to all the cameras in the crowd. To be fair, that may have also been because the guy in front of me insisted on holding an iPad over his head for the duration of the show.
But it wasn’t just him. There were so many recording devices held in the air that the Water Puppet Show felt a bit like a Grateful Dead concert; except without the weed or the cool music.
I even got in on the act. I shot this two minutes of video mostly because I could. I’m pretty sure nobody would have complained if I taped the entire thing. Not that I had to. If you’re wondering what the entire show is like just imagine this, only 30 times longer.
And while I didn’t learn a lick of Vietnamese history during the puppet show, it did help put one thing in perspective. I now have a greater understanding of all the pirated merchandise we saw for sale throughout South East Asia.
If they don’t make the slightest effort to protect their own intellectual property at places like the Water Puppet Show, why on earth would they care about protecting anyone else’s?