Cheo singing is a form of popular theatre in Vietnam that has its roots in ancient village festivals.
It consists of folk songs with pantomime, intrumental music and dances, combined with instructive or interpretive sketches dealing with stories from legends, poetry, history or even daily life. Also brought into play are acrobatic scenes and magic. Cheo tells tales of chiefs, heroes and lovely maidens and offers an eclectic mix of romance, tragedy and comedy.
Traditionally Cheo was composed orally by anonymous authors. Today’s playwrights compose cheo operas along traditional lines : the characters in the plays sing time-tested popular melodies with words suited to modern circumstances.
The costomes, makeup, gestures and language create typical characters familiar to every member of the audience. The props are simple. As a result, there is a close interchange between the performers and the spectators.
A Cheo play could be put on stage in a large theater, but it could also be performed successfully on one or two bed mats spread in the middle of a communal house with a cast of only three: a hero, a heroine and a clown.