From ‘Les Mis’ to ‘Wolf Hall’ via ‘Matilda’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, the RSC’s greatest triumphs have arguably not been Shakespeare plays at all, but blockbuster stage adaptations of classic books and films.
And now the venerable company – whose artistic director Greg Doran has recently announced he’s stepping down – is returning to its London home the Barbican this autumn and Christmas with what might well be its next big hit.
‘My Neighbour Totoro’ is a lavish new adaptation of the legendary Japanese animation Studio Ghibli’s 1988 film about a pair of young sisters who move to the countryside for the summer while their mother recovers from an illness. There, they encounter a world of magical creatures, including the eponymous Totoro, an ancient forest protector.
Executive produced by Joe Hisaishi who wrote the original film’s score, and given the blessing of Hayao Miyazaki, Ghibli’s legendary founder (and the film’s writer-director), this isn’t actually the first stage version of one of the studio’s feature films (Southwark Playhouse tackled ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ a few years back), but it’s by far the biggest, anywhere in the world, including Japan.
Mixing live acting, animation and puppetry, ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ will be directed by the great Phelim McDermott, adapted by Tom Morton-Smith (who wrote the magnificent RSC smash ‘Oppenheimer’) with production design by Tom Pye, costumes by Kimie Nakano, lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun, movement by You-Ri Yamanaka and Hisaishi’s score reorchestrated by Will Stuart. Thrillingly the puppets – designed by Basil Twist – are being built by the legendary Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, responsible for such iconic classics as ‘The Muppet Show’, ‘Fraggle Rock’, ‘The Dark Crystal’, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Sesame Street’
The on-sale day for the show has apparently set the record for the biggest single day of sales in Barbican history. We don’t actually know how much this is, but considering Benedict Cumberbatch’s blockbuster ‘Hamlet’ from 2015 was the previous holder, we can only assume the show is going to be damn popular – word is a West End transfer is being eyed up already.