My Neighbour Totoro stage adaptation from Royal Shakespeare Company to run in London

Iconic Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro is to be adapted for the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Featuring music by famed Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 animated film will be brought to life at the Barbican in London from October.

My Neighbour Totoro tells the story of sisters Satsuki and Mei who move with their father from Tokyo to an old house in the country only to discover magical creatures living nearby, including the giant forest spirit Totoro.

Tom Morton-Smith will adapt the story for the stage with Phelim McDermott directing.

The creative team also includes designer Tom Pye, costumes by Kimie Nakano, lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun and movement by You-ri Yamanaka, additional orchestrations by Will Stuart, puppetry by Basil Twist, sound design by Tony Gayle and associate director Ailin Conant. Artwork for the stage adaptation of My Neighbour Totoro includes a hand drawn title by Toshio Suzuki, Producer for Studio Ghibli, who was involved in the planning and production of the original animated film.

Casting for the production is to be announced soon.

This enchanting coming-of-age story explores the magical fantasy world of childhood and the transformative power of imagination, as it follows one extraordinary summer in the lives of sisters Satsuki and Mei.

In order to be closer to their mother while she recovers from an illness in a rural convalescent hospital, their father moves the family to the countryside. As the girls explore their beautiful new surroundings, Mei encounters magical creatures and the ancient protector of the forest she calls Totoro.

Although Satsuki doesn’t believe her little sister at first, they are soon both swept up in exciting adventures with their new neighbours – transported to a long-forgotten realm of spirits, sprites, and natural wonder.

Hisaishi, who will executive produce the adaptation with the RSC, said: “In Japan, many people are passionate about theatre and musicals, but there are no original Japanese shows or musicals performed in the world. ‘Totoro’ is a Japanese work famous throughout the world, and so this stage adaptation could have the potential to reach global audiences. That’s what I thought, and I told Mr Miyazaki ‘I want to see such a show’ and he said ‘yes, only if you are going to do it.’

“This responsibility is a huge task, but we chose to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a globally prestigious company, and with their support we can make it happen. I am delighted that the RSC have become our partner because I feel much in common between the quality of the RSC and Mr. Miyazaki’s aesthetic. This is a ground-breaking project. Phelim McDermott is a wonderful director, and his team are enthusiastic, creative and very hardworking. They love Totoro and the sense of anticipation is high.

“I was involved with the original animation film, and so I feel strongly about not harming the film. If the story is universal – as I believe it is – it will have a global reach even if it is performed by people from different cultural backgrounds speaking different languages. I was sure of this – and so we have chosen to open outside Japan. To me this was important. It’s vital to keep distance with the film but it’s also important to have new encounters. That’s why I put my trust in this project. I believe it will be a great show.”

My Neighbour Totoro will run at London’s Barbican Centre from 8 October 8 2022 to 21 January 2023.

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About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.


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