Impressed, but not transported, by 'Spirited Away'
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Impressed, but not transported, by 'Spirited Away'
Tomorowo Taguchi as Kamaji, the creepy boiler room employee whose tentacles are operated by puppeteers, in “Spirited Away,” directed by John Caird at the London Coliseum. A stage production of the beloved Studio Ghibli movie is big on spectacle, but rarely grabs the heart. (Johan Persson via The New York Times)

by Matt Wolf



NEW YORK, NY.- There’s big, and then there’s “Spirited Away,” a show on a scale that few theater productions attempt.

Adapted from the venerated Studio Ghibli film by Hayao Miyazaki, British director John Caird’s stage iteration was first seen in Miyazaki’s native Japan in 2022 and has now traveled to the London Coliseum — the West End’s largest theater — where it runs through Aug. 24.

Performed in Japanese, with many of the original cast members along for its British premiere, the production has size, sweep and opulence to spare. Length, too: At just over three hours, the stage version runs nearly an hour longer than the film. I can’t remember a foreign-language production given such a long run on a London stage — which itself speaks to the international cachet of this title.

What’s missing, though, is human connection. The story of “Spirited Away” gets lost amid the spectacle, and, exciting though it is to watch, the show rarely grabs the heart.

Both the stage and screen versions introduce so many characters that you sometimes need a road map to keep track. Aficionados of the material will note the brilliance with which characters are brought to three-dimensional life by the genius puppet designer, Toby Olié, and his hardworking team.

Others may struggle to work out a decidedly bizarre narrative, adapted for the stage by Caird and his wife, Maoko Imai. The positioning of the English-language surtitles doesn’t help: Those are placed on either side of the Coliseum’s vast stage and high above the proscenium arch, which, unless you speak Japanese, means shifting your head throughout to absorb the onstage action and its meaning.

Our through line to the strange events is 10-year-old Chihiro (a surpassingly sweet Mone Kamishiraishi), who takes an inadvertent turn into a spirit world on a bumpy car ride with her parents to a new home. Finding herself in what seems like a disused theme park, but in fact turns out to be a supernatural realm, Chihiro gets separated from her greedy parents, who morph into pigs.

The enchanted, sometimes dangerous, world is well conjured by designer Jon Bausor, who fills every inch of the set with something to engage the eye, including an elegant wooden structure at the center of the stage — the story’s all-important bathhouse — that revolves throughout.

Chihiro encounters a cavalcade of creatures, and there’s delicious fun to be had from seeing iconic figures from the movie created anew. You thrill to the first sight of the mysterious No-Face (Hikaru Yamano), Chihiro’s lonely companion, and the creepy boiler-room employee, Kamaji (Tomorowo Taguchi), with tentacles that seem to extend for miles.

The Stink Spirit so foully memorable on-screen here appears as an oddly irresistible mound of sludge. And the range of puppets is simply astonishing, from flying dragons to soot sprites and characters, like the sorceress Yubaba (Mari Natsuki, an alumna of the film), who appear in recognizably human form one minute and then as forbidding outsized versions of themselves.

At times, the stage is so packed with activity that you lose the narrative thread and yearn for quieter moments amid the clamor. But the film’s sizable fan base will thrill to its renewed life onstage, and reactions to the show might depend on how invested you are in the material. Joe Hisaishi’s film score, played live throughout, offers an immediately nostalgic link to the celluloid source.

Comparisons are tricky, but it’s impossible not to set “Spirited Away” against “My Neighbor Totoro,” an earlier, much-loved Miyazaki title that reached the London stage in 2022, performed in English, and went on to win six Olivier Awards. That production gets a further London run starting next March.

But the comparatively streamlined “Totoro” maintains a domestic focus on a father and his two daughters throughout, and its nonhuman characters — of which there are many fewer — are easier to track. “Spirited Away,” by contrast, keeps the visuals coming until you are full to bursting, much like Chihiro’s gluttonous parents.

Was I emotionally transported, or spirited away? Alas not.



‘Spirited Away’

Through Aug. 24 at the Coliseum, in London; londoncoliseum.org.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










Today's News

May 11, 2024

An embarrassment of style at the Independent

Massive fossil donation helps Brazil's National Museum rise from the ashes

UBS donates major American landscape photographs to National Gallery of Art

Surrealism reigns at Tefaf Art Fair

Cass Elliot's death spawned a horrible myth. She deserves better.

Group exhibition at Kunsthal Mechelen explores the fountain as an artistic object

'Size matters: Scale in Photography' on view at Kunstpalast Dusseldorf

Homeowners who planned to demolish Marilyn Monroe house sue Los Angeles

Salon 94 presents 'Ione Saldanha: The Time and The Color'

He sang 'What a Fool Believes.' but Michael McDonald is in on the joke.

Buxton Contemporary unveils major exhibition 'The same crowd never gathers twice'

Exhibition features five works of Niki de Saint Phalle's late-career Tableaux Éclatés series

Yorke Antique Textiles publishes "Ceremonial Textiles of Japan: 18th to 20th Centuries"

Collection of Baroness Gabriele Langer von Langendorff tops one million at Roland Auctions NY

Impressed, but not transported, by 'Spirited Away'

Artist debuts "Reverie Unbound" in solo exhibit in Santa Fe

Roberts Projects opens a survey of paintings from 1998 to 2015 by Eberhard Havekost

Interdisciplinary artist presents newly commissioned sculptures at Detroit Institute of Arts

Bernard Pivot, host of influential French TV show on books, dies at 89

A waterfront house with the message 'all or nothing at all'

Lawns draw scorn, but some see room for compromise

In Mexico, a house that returns to the well

What does 'post-emerging' look like in today's dance landscape?

London Gallery Weekend announces events highlights, artist commissions and curator bursaries

7 Tips to Invest in Diamond Jewelry

The Allure of Indonesia: Unveiling the Beauty of Teak Outdoor Furniture

6 Tips to Make Your Next Game-Launching Event More Exciting and Engaging

How to Maximize Your Compensation After a Car Accident?

Thriving Career Paths with a Computer Science Degree

Prime-CC.com Review Is a Comprehensive Guide to Accounts & Features

Siqi Qin Advocates for China's Cultural Diversity

Sprawling landscape of personal finance

Music Therapy: Performance at Sunrise Senior House

Yongwen Dai: Shaping the Next Era of Design with Cutting-Edge Innovations

Choosing the Perfect Drawing Tablet for Aspiring Artists




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful