Following on from Studio Ghibli’s UK stage adaptation debut in 2022 of “My Neighbour Totoro”, is the arrival of Spirited Away, based on the 2001 Oscar-winning film originally written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and brought to life at the London Coliseum with the direction of John Caird (Les Mirsérables). 

Spirited Away
Chihiro and Haku ©TOHO CO., LTD.

The story centres around a young girl named Chihiro (played with ample effusiveness by Momoko Fukuchi) who becomes trapped in a mystical world filled with spirits and fantastical creatures from folkloric Japan. To find her way home, she must navigate this strange world, working at a bathhouse and overcoming numerous challenges. Along with Chihiro are a number of other colourful characters as Haku (played at this show by Kaito Arai), No Face (Hikaru Yamano), and reprising her voiced roles from the original film as Yubaba and Zeniba is Mari Natsuki. The whole show performed in native Japanese with projected subtitles.

Spirited Away
No-Face portrayed by several actors ©TOHO CO., LTD.

The dense and fantastical world-building have remained intact during Spirited Away’s stage-turn. An incredible and authentic atmosphere is demonstrated by the amazing composition of all aspects of production. Much of the nuance in props and set design also have remained intact, enough so that several of Miyazaki’s allegories aren’t lost in this rich stage version. The symphonic score composed by Erika Fukasawa perfectly accentuates and compliments the dynamic and inventive choreography and set design. Holistically speaking, all aspects of the production work perfectly in balance, neither dwarfed nor over-stated by each other, to provide an exquisite sushi-roll of audial visual flavours.

Spirited Away
Chihiro with Yubaba ©TOHO CO., LTD.

Credit must therefore go to the director, John Caird assisted by Maoko Imai, who have uncompromisingly retained much of the original and authentic Japanese source in its transition to the west, much like many recent successful cross-media translations from Japan.

Those who haven’t viewed the 2001 animated classic would be a little bit behind understanding what is going on throughout the course of the play compared to those that have, but all is tidily wrapped for all audience members by the time of the final curtain call.

Like its Studio Ghibli stage predecessor, Spirited Away will enjoy a limited run at London Coliseum, which at the time of writing has now been extended until August 24.

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