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London stage adaptation of Spirited Away extends after ‘unprecedented demand’

Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)
Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)

The Japanese stage adaptation of Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed 2001 animation, which arrives in London next year, has extended its run a further five weeks due to “unprecedented demand”.

Spirited Away will open at London’s largest West End theatre, the Coliseum, in April and will now run until August 2024. Tickets for the extra weeks went on sale at 10am this morning.

Spirited Away tells the story of a young girl, Chihiro, who accidently enters a world of Kami (shinto spirits) which in Spirited Away is imagined as a kind of bathhouse. In this new world she must look for her parents, who have been transformed into pigs for greedily eating food that was not theirs. But it’s a hard task: Chihiro needs to persuade the bathouse’s boss, Yubaba, to let her retrieve them, and must prove herself by working in the meantime.

“I am proud and delighted to present the original Japanese stage production of Spirited Away at the Coliseum Theatre next year,” said director John Caird. “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.”

Spirited Away won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003, and quickly became a worldwide hit. It made Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio that had created the film, a household name, and Spirited Away became the second highest-grossing Japanese film worldwide – a position it maintains to this day – making $395 million.

Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)
Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)

The film was then adapted into an acclaimed stage play by Toho Theatrical Department, alongside Canadian director Caird, in 2022.

Olivier and Tony Award-winning Caird has directed numerous high profile theatre productions over his 50-year career, including The Seagull at the National Theatre (1994) and Macbeth at the Almeida (2005). He has also previously directed Japanese-language productions, including an adaptation of Twelfth Night which opened in Tokyo in 2015.

“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,” said Toshio Suzuki, President of Studio Ghibli. “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.”

The original cast coming to London will include Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi, who both play Chihiro. The play will be presented in Japanese with English-language captions. Its live orchestra will play Joe Hisaishi’s original music, which has been specially arranged by Brad Haak (Disney’s Mary Poppins, Elton John’s Lestat).

Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)
Photo of the original Japanese production (Handout)

“It is a great honour to be able to perform the show in Japanese just as we did in Japan,” said Kamishiraishi. “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.”

The production team includes set designer Jon Bausor (Bat Out of Hell, The Seagull), choreographer Shigehiro Ide (founder of IDEVIAN Crew), and costume designer Sachiko Nakahara. Puppets will be once again designed by Toby Olié (101 Dalmatians).

Last year a Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro opened at the Barbican. When tickets went on sale, demand was so high that it broke the venue’s record for sales in a single day. The adaptation was, on the whole, hailed a success, and it will return to the Barbican for a second run in November.

In its review at the time, the Standard thought the production “could use more jeopardy, more darkness and more of the monsters”. Spirited Away could answer this demand: the 2001 award-winning animation is a much darker and more complicated story.

How do I get tickets?

The extra tickets, which went on sale this morning, can be found here.

Spirited Away will open at The London Coliseum in April 2024; spiritedawayuk.com