Spirited Away (Review)

The European premiere of Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning film Spirited Away, now re-imagined for the stage, is being performed at the London Coliseum this summer. It is performed in Japanese with an English translation visible from all seats.

Spirited Away review

Some of the City Adventurers saw Spirited Away years ago as a film and loved it. In fact it won the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in 2002. Fast forward to 2024 and the re-imagined Hayao Miyazaki’s creation has arrived at the London Coliseum as a three hour stage adaptation spectacle.

The City Adventurers headed to London to see if the play would live up to the film, and live up to other recent Japanese productions, such as My Neighbour Totoro (we saw at the Barbican in 2022, currently on at the Gillian Lynne Theatre) and Death Note: The Musical that we saw at the Lyric Theatre last September.

We were not disappointed.

This was a spectacular performance that kept us gripped for the whole 3 hours. Yes, it is a long time, but then it is also a faithful adaptation of the movie, which is over 2 hours long, and the show includes an interval.

The story

The story follows Chihiro, a young girl moving to a new home with her parents. En route the family take a detour and end up in a mystical land. There they discover some food that appears to have been abandoned. Tucking into the meals, her parents are turned into pigs! To save them, Chihiro has to undergo various trials by working at a bathhouse in the Japanese spirit world that is run by the witch, Yubaba.

The Show

When we arrived at the London Coliseum, the foyer was covered in cherry blossom and the bar area had Japanese drinks and snacks alongside the usual bar menu. The theming set the scene for the show we were about to see.

The original cast from the sold-out Japanese world premiere were in London to perform this limited UK run, so it was no surprise that the auditorium was packed.

Although the production is in Japanese, the show was easy to follow, even though none of us are fluent in Japanese and some of us had not seen the film. The show has English captions projected each side of the stage. The only problem we found was that you missed some of the action on stage while you were reading the captions.

This theatrical adaptation follows the film superbly. The vibrant storytelling, which included acting, dancing and puppetry, was able to bring the fantasy worlds and characters to life. The puppet work was good, while the choreography was particularly impressive, both of the characters and for the changes made to the set throughout the performance.

The role of Chihiro was immense, with the character being on stage for the whole three hours. No wonder four different actresses will share the role through its stay in London.

A fantastic theatrical production. Catch it while you can.

See Spirited Away at the London Coliseum until August 24. Book Tickets here.

Spirited Away at the London Coliseum.
Spirited Away at the London Coliseum.

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