The Trung Sisters were two Vietnamese warrior princesses who trained an army of 80,000 people and led their country to freedom in the 5th Century. During the Big West Festival, 25 students from Footscray North Primary School will re-tell their story. Staged in Footscray's newly refurbished rotunda at McNab Reserve the evening performance will include martial arts, traditional dancing, opera and large-scale puppetry.
"The students have built giant puppets, will enact powerful battle scenes and perform a script guided by their writing based on this epic story," explains devisor and director, Jo Trevathan. "The grade 5/6’s have interpreted a real and important cultural story that deals with big themes of love war, sacrifice, bravery and humanity, things we presume children will not understand but I have found they have strong opinions about. In the West where we have over 80 cultures and 140 languages sharing cultural stories such as The Trung Sisters, increases understanding by discovering what we have in common and where we are unique. In the current climate of cultural diversity and political division it is important to understand and appreciate this true story."
So if you're looking to learn about an important history of Vietnamese culture while also being entertained by a group of young performers using puppets and battle scenes as you sit underneath the stars, look no further than The Trung Sisters.
"When I met with Cam Nguyen from the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, she was very keen for the story of The Trung Sisters to be told in the wider community. I asked if the Trung Sisters were role models for Vietnamese women and Cam laughed and said ‘no way, they were unattainable like gods’. That made me curious as this story is not a myth but a true story," she says. "I was excited to discover that early Vietnamese culture was matriarchal. Women could inherit property, manage finances, retain their family name and pass it onto their children. Women participated in politics as diplomats and leaders. So why were they not role models?"
"I noticed there were different retellings/versions of this story and as I went deeper into researching the story, another story of colonization was threaded through the accounts of the Trung Sisters' story. Depending on who was in power, the emphasis shifted. In some retellings the initiative for rebellion seems to be taken away from the traditional heroines and redistributed to male figures. As female military heroes, their story and all the versions reflects not only changing values in, and attitudes towards, Vietnam’s struggle for independence, but the role and prestige of women within that struggle."