Studio Ghibli
Photo: Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’ is being adapted into a stage play

The theatre adaption of the Oscar-winning film will debut in Tokyo in 2022 – and could travel to Asia and Europe thereafter

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

It’s hard to pick a favourite among Hayao Miyazaki’s many masterpieces, but Studio Ghibli fans are usually quick to declare ‘Spirited Away’ as their number one. The 2001 animation was particularly well received internationally and went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002, along with numerous other accolades. Now, the film is being adapted into a stage production, which is set to debut in February 2022. 

Tony Award-winner John Caird (‘Les Misérables’), who is also an Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, will be in charge of adapting and directing the production. Though Studio Ghibli is notoriously selective with their collaborators, the anime house’s lead producer Toshio Suzuki said both he and Miyazaki agreed to work with Caird because they liked Caird’s vision and trusted his creative direction. 

Caird, who has already invested over a thousand hours of work into the adaptation, expressed mutual admiration for the Japanese animator. ‘I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first ever stage adaptation of Sen to Chihiro (the abbreviated Japanese title for ‘Spirited Away’),’ he said in a statement. ‘I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form.’ 

Spirited Away
Photo: Kana Hashimoto (left) and Mone Kamishiraishi (right)

For the lead role in the stage production, the British director has already double cast actresses Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi to portray the main protagonist Chihiro. This will be Hashimoto’s debut as a stage actress, whereas Kamishiraishi has previously worked with Caird for the production of ‘Knight’s Tale’. 

This will not be the first time a Studio Ghibli film has been adapted for the stage – ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ was made into a Kabuki play in 2019 – but it may be the first Ghibli play to be performed abroad. Toho, the company producing the play, stated that it hopes to bring the stage adaptation of ‘Spirited Away’ to other parts of Asia and even Europe after a season in Japan. 

The show will run at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo from February to March in 2022. After that, the production will travel to Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo and finally, Nagoya between April and July in the same year. 

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