"Long live the Lao People's Democratic Republic," proclaimed a banner above the stage at the Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship. Directly beneath the one slogan, another read: "Long live the glory of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party."
While both LPDR and the Party are today alive and well, the Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship is no more.
Word of the communist-era theater's demise reached the SEA Theater Project thanks to a traveler who sought out the ruinous structure while passing through Oudomxai. Only the right wing of the building was standing upon arrival, he wrote.
Socialist realism in cinema form
Auditorium of the Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship
A gift from the Vietnamese government to their comrades in the city of Oudomxai, the theater was built during the height of Laos' short-lived experiment with a centrally planned economy. By 1986, the commune system was completely abandoned on the heels of "big brother" Vietnam's switch to a market economy.
Many architecture enthusiasts, loath to the bulky plainness inherent in socialist realism architecture, will welcome the loss of the Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship. Personally, I look at such buildings as symbolic of the ideals, or lack thereof, of the times in which they were contracted. Despite its "ugliness," the building had worth, if only in its instructiveness. Its demolition is indeed a loss.
Laos never built much in the way of socialist realism to begin with. Now one of the finest examples of it in the north of the country is no more.
The Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship, 1981-2012.
Click here and here for some older posts about the theater.