Meets Cirque du Soleil meets Hip Hop dance battle meets Ringling Brothers all set to the live soundtrack of Vietnamese opera, heart-stopping drum beats and haunting solos.
Don’t come expecting an elaborate story line because there really isn’t one. Instead, the show is dedicated to portraying classic scenes of Vietnam, both countryside and urban, in truly innovative ways.
The show incorporates bamboo props in almost every act, a nod to rural living. But they do turn up in unexpected ways – bamboo trays doubling as lily pads or Frisbees, traditional bamboo circular boats as launch pads for some amazing acrobatics or as a giant pendulum from which performers hurl themselves!\
A O pronounced with Vietnamese accents actually draws out the letters to be more like: Aaaaaah! Oooooooh! or the universal language of surprise which is what the show does best. Innovative use of props, quickly changing sets and the physical ability of the performers (who are from all types of dance and acrobatic backgrounds including circus, parkour and ballet) all combine for a superb evening out.
Visitors who have travelled around Vietnam, especially into its beautiful countryside, will recognize common scenes recreated in the show, like walking along flimsy monkey bridges…
… or paddling along Vietnam’s many waterways in a simple coracle…
Even the wildlife gets a nod in a creative scene where overturned boats become turtle shells with some dance moves thrown in for good measure.
One of our favorite scenes revolves around an apartment complex ingeniously made up of bamboo scaffolding. Visitors to the show get a glimpse of crowded apartment living in hilarious vignettes happening in each individual apartment and how the residents interact with each other. Some of the elements might be unfamiliar to visitors to Vietnam who never venture far out of their hotels, but they offer a unique glimpse into how many Vietnamese really live.
Another highlight is the sequence simply called “The Machine”, a dizzying array of human perpetual motion that has every performer contributing to a gasp-worthy feast for the eyes.
That’s the thing about the A O Show – there’s so much to tantalize the senses in every scene, from the props to the performers to the live music with traditional instruments, sometimes you just don’t know where to look!
“AO is all about working together,” says Tho, the troupe’s star breakdancer and budding choreographer. “It just takes one person to mess up a performance. But what we’re trying to achieve here is to dignify everyday [bamboo] objects, for people to remember Vietnam, for them to say ‘ahhh! ohhh!’ just like the name.”
BONUS TIP: The A O Show is held in the gorgeous Saigon Opera House. Built in 1897, the elegant façade is modeled after Paris’ Petit Palais. There are no tours of the interior, so the only way to view it is to see a performance. Arrive early for a look around. Especially beautiful is the ceiling, so don’t forget to look up!
AO has 3-4 regular performances each week at the Saigon Opera House. Tickets for the electrifying hour-long show start at VND 630,000. See www.luneproduction.com/ao-show for booking details and promotions.
Photo credits: Black and white photos courtesy of the A O Show.