The RSC’s My Neighbor Totoro set to make triumphant return to the stage after sell out run

·2-min read
 (Manuel Harlan)
(Manuel Harlan)

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage adaptation of My Neighbour Toroto is set to return to the Barbican in London this autumn.

The news is perhaps unsurprising: the play’s original run, which opened last autumn, broke the Barbican records for sales in a day, proving more popular than Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.

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Now it will return to the stage for a five-month run, opening in November.

“The most extraordinary group of artists have come together from all over the world to adapt this iconic film for the stage, and I am delighted that the production will return to the Barbican in 2023,” said Griselda Yorke, RSC’s executive producer. “With our return to the Barbican, many more audiences will be able to experience the joy of Totoro and we can’t wait to welcome them.”

The sell-out production, which is currently in the running for nine Olivier awards, was widely acclaimed, pulling in five star reviews from both The Guardian and The FT.

The Standard was slightly less effusive, giving the adaptation three stars, saying, “it’s easier to admire this Studio Ghibli adaptation than love it,” but nevertheless said that the production had “ravishing imagery”.

A reimagining of the 1988 anime, My Neighbour Totoro tells the story of two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the country in post-war Japan. Their mother is ill, so they live alone with their doting father who encourages them to play outside and lean into their imaginations, which they do.

There is a cat bus and several Totoros of different sizes – Totoros are giant and soft owl-bear creatures that have become the motif of Studio Ghibli – which made adapting the production a thrilling challenge for the production team.

The RSC’s adaptation is directed by Phelim McDermott, who spent the last 15 years working on Philip Glass operas, and has a set by Tom Pye, costumes by Kimie Nakano and sound by Tony Gayle.

Tom Morton-Smith, who wrote the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2015 play Oppenheimer, adapted the animation, and celebrated puppeteer, Basil Twist, a longtime collaborator of McDermott’s, worked alongside puppeteers including Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, to make the incredible Totoros and the cat bus.

The RSC’s My Neighbour Totoro is also a collaboration with Joe Hisaishi, who composed the original film’s music. It was Hisaishi who initially approached the RSC about adapting one of the Studio Ghibli films, and orchestrator Will Stuart has reimagined his memorable score in the stage adaptation.

Studio Ghibli is the Japanese animation studio behind some of the country’s most famous films and exports. Ghibli has become so well known that three of its films are in Japan’s top six top grossing films worldwide, a remarkable feat for animation films that are now each at least 15 years old.

My Neighbour Totoro, November 21, 2023 to March 24, 2024;