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Studio Ghibli's 'Spirited Away' Takes to the Stage in London

(Image from Euronews).


Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is the latest stage production to transfer to London’s West End, following the success of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of My Neighbour Totoro last year, which won this year’s Olivier Awards.


What is Spirited Away?


Spirited Away is a Japanese animated film created by Studio Ghibli. The Japanese animated film from 2001 follows the story of a young girl, Chihiro Ogino, who accidentally enters the world of Kami (spirits of Japanese Shinto folklore), which in Spirited Away is imagined as a bathhouse. In this spirit realm, Chihiro must look for her parents, who have been transformed into pigs for greedily eating food that was not theirs. She faces many challenges to free her parents, particularly as she must persuade the bathhouse’s boss, Yubaba, to let her retrieve them, and she must prove herself by working in the meantime. The film centres on Chihiro’s mission to free herself and her parents, and return to the human world, making both enemies and friends with the Shinto spirits she runs into. 


Spirited Away won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003 at the 75th Academy Awards, making it the first, and to date only, hand-drawn and non-English-language animated film to win the award. It also quickly became a worldwide hit. In 2016, it was even voted the fourth-best film of the 21st century by the BBC, as picked by 177 film critics from around the world, making it the highest-ranking animated film on the list (BBC, 2016). It made Studio Ghibli a household name, and Spirited Away became the second highest-grossing Japanese film worldwide – a position it maintains to this day – making $395 million (Evening Standard, 2023).


Spirited Away, and its Predecessor, My Neighbour Totoro, on the Stage


It was first adapted for the stage in Japan last year (Independent, 2023). The production, a collaboration between the Toho Theatrical Department and Tony Award-winning director John Caird, will transfer to London’s Coliseum for a limited run beginning in April until July 2024.


Caird is an Olivier and Tony Award-winner who has directed numerous high-profile theatre productions over his 50-year career, including The Seagull at the National Theatre (1994) and Macbeth at the Almedia (2005). He has also previously directed Japanese-language productions, including an adaptation of Twelfth Night that opened in Tokyo in 2015. So, rest assured Caird has significant experience in this type of stage production, and those who may wish to see the show can feel a lot more reassured that the original source material will be treated correctly. 


“The day we first met John Caird, Hayao Miyazaki and I thought he was the perfect director for the production – that was the beginning of this project,” Toshio Suzuki, President of Studio Ghibli, explained. “It was thanks to the hard work of John, the cast, and all those involved that the premiere production received such high acclaim. I really look forward to Spirited Away being enjoyed by audiences in London” (Evening Standard, 2023).


The newest adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s filmography onto the stage follows the huge success of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of My Neighbour Totoro, which ran at the Barbican and is inspired by the 1988 film of the same namesake. The show, starring Mei Mac, won six Olivier Awards, and will be returning for a second run from November 2023 until March 2024 (tickets available following this link). When tickets went on sale, demand was so high that it broke the venue’s record for sales in a single day (Evening Standard, 2023). The adaptation has been hailed as a great success, allowing it to return for a second run.


The Japanese-language production of Spirited Away will feature English captions, with the cast of the original sold-out run in Japan, including Chihiro actors Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi, performing in the show. Puppets, created by Toby Olié, will also be used to bring director Hayao Miyazaki’s magical world to life. Its live orchestra will play Joe Hisaishi’s original music, which has been specifically arranged by Brad Haak (Timeout, 2023). Moreover, the creative team also includes a spectacular set design by Jon Bausor, choreography by Shigehiro Ide, and extravagant costumes by Sachiko Nakahara. 


“It is a great honour to be able to perform the show in Japanese just as we did in Japan. I am looking forward to seeing how the show that Japanese audiences enjoyed so much will reach London audiences, and I feel very happy and honoured,” Kamishirashi has recently said regarding the reprisal of her role as Chihiro (Evening Standard, 2023).


Director Caird has stated: “I am proud and delighted to present the original Japanese stage production of Spirited Away at the Coliseum Theatre next year. We had a wonderful time creating the show in 2022 and I’m so happy now to be spiriting away a British audience into Hayao Miyazaki’s magical world” (Independent, 2023).


Where and When Can I Get Tickets?


Early-access tickets were released 5th September at 10 a.m. GST, and general booking for tickets was released on 7th September, 10 a.m. GST, which you can find following this link.


Edited by: Shahnawaz Chodhry

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