My Neighbor Totoro, one of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s most beloved works, will be treading the boards in England very soon. The 1988 anime masterpiece about two little girls and their very big furry friends will be a stage show courtesy of Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company and Totoro composer Joe Hisaishi.
While the show will feature the music from the film, as well as unused songs composed for the feature, Totoro will not be a musical. At the very least, we hope that a choir will sing the film’s theme song, a nuclear earworm if there ever was one.
My Neighbor Totoro follows two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move with their father from Tokyo to the country as their mother recovers from an illness at a nearby hospital. As they adjust to their new life, the girls meet the local wildlife, particularly a large, fluffy, sleepy boy that Mei calls “Totoro.”
Per Deadline, the show is being adapted by Tom Morton-Smith, a British playwright, who wrote the 2015 play Oppenheimer, not to be confused with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Phelim McDermott will direct and according to McDermott, the show’s cast will be of Japanese, East and South-East Asian heritage as will much of the production.
“I’m not from [Japanese] culture, and there are things in the piece I don’t understand,” McDermott told Deadline. “It’s absolutely essential to have those voices in the room.”
However, McDermott says that children will not play the two leads. “We have to use performers who can do many things. Puppetry, physical stuff, so there are choices to be made.” It sounds like they’re going to be getting into some Julie Taymor stuff—hopefully sans injuries.
Apparently, Studio Ghibli reached out to the RSC about working on stage adaptations following the success of the Tony-winning Matilda. Writer Morton-Smith got to meet Miyazaki, who started their conversation by asking if the writer was a feminist.
“I said ‘yes’ and that was very important to him and that the girls are central,” said Morton-Smith. “All of his films are fantastical and magical and there’s so much in them that chime with childhood. It’s all about exploring the natural world and running around and having this really involved fantasy life.”
My Neighbor Totoro is set to debut at London’s Barbican Centre on October 8, 2022, and will run through January 21, 2023.