West End Welcomes Studio Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’ Stage Adaptation

The West End has embraced another Studio Ghibli masterpiece with the debut of ‘Spirited Away,’ a stage adaptation by John Caird and Maoko Imai, running at the Coliseum until August 24. This follows the successful reception of ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is set to premiere next March.

Directed by John Caird, known for his work on ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘Les Misérables,’ the adaptation brings the intricate world of Hayao Miyazaki to life. Despite initial challenges for non-Japanese speakers to follow surtitles while absorbing the visual spectacle, the production quickly captivates its audience with its stunning aesthetics and seamless execution.

The narrative follows young Chihiro as she navigates a spirit world, trying to return to her human realm. Alongside a cast of fantastical beings—from a giant white radish god to the enigmatic No-Face—the story unfolds with a mix of puppetry by British expert Toby Olié, intricate costumes by Sachiko Nakahara, and dynamic choreography by Shigehiro Ide. Jon Bausor’s transformative set design adds to the magic, creating a vivid, animated world.

The performance also features an array of creative puppetry and acrobatics, with characters like the soot sprites and Kermit-like frogs bringing a playful element to the stage. The portrayal of No-Face by Hikaru Yamano is particularly notable for its nuanced and compelling presentation.

Music and dance further enrich the experience, with Joe Hisaishi’s score underpinning the ethereal atmosphere. Although the show runs for three hours and occasionally slows to unpack the dense plot, the overall impact is mesmerizing.

Featuring multiple casts, the performance reviewed showcased Mone Kamishiraishi as a determined Chihiro and Mari Natsuki as the formidable witch Yubaba, alongside her twin Zeniba. Together, the cast and creative team deliver a heartfelt homage to Miyazaki’s celebrated film, captivating audiences with its enchanting execution.

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