The Spirited Away Stage Adaptation Is Incredible With Its Incredible Puppets

Putting on a 40-actor theatrical production in the midst of a pandemic is no small feat. Add to that the fact that said performance is the first-ever professional stage adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s iconic “Spirited Away” and you have one hell of a tough job on your shoulders. But thanks to the unparalleled determination of dozens of performers, creators and crew members, the long-awaited stage adaptation of “Spirited Away” finally made its theatrical debut at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo last week.

It’s hard to imagine a Studio Ghibli film adaptation that would live up to its source material. However, the set visuals released shortly after the room opened are better than anything we could have imagined.

Starring Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi as Chihiro, the play involves numerous puppets – designed by Toby Olié – to recreate the fantastical creatures and characters that live in the mystical world that Chihiro accidentally wanders into. Olié, who studied puppetry at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, is one of the most sought after puppet directors in the industry. His credits include many major productions such as the 2007 premiere of ‘War Horse’ at the National Theater in London as well as the current UK tour of ‘Animal Farm’.

In charge of directing the production is Wretched director and Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company John Caird, whose involvement was a key reason Studio Ghibli agreed to greenlight the adaptation.

On Twitter, Caird described the intercontinental struggle to organize rehearsal times across several different time zones and arrange Zoom calls with overseas staff who worked all day and all night to put on the show. The director also credited the incredible support and positivity of his cast throughout the toughest and most arduous rehearsal process of his life.

“Spirited Away” is on view at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo until March 29. After that, the piece will go on tour in Japan throughout the summer. You can book your tickets here.

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