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Did the critics have an animated reaction to My Neighbour Totoro?

The show is getting heaps of audience and critic love, it turns out

Ami Okumura Jones, Mei Mac, Jaqueline Tate
© RSC with Nippon TV, photo by Manuel Harlan

Theo Bosanquet, WhatsOnStage

★★★★

"Many years in development, this theatrical incarnation makes innovative use of puppetry, designed by Basil Twist and the Jim Henson Company, to bring its cast of magical spirits and more earthly creatures to life. The staging is genuine jaw-on-the-floor stuff, with a team of visible puppeteers (several gags are made about this) flitting around to manifest everything from tiny, fluffy soot sprites to the proscenium-filling main character, whose first appearance is greeted by an ovation.

"Director Phelim McDermott throws all of his characteristic inventiveness at Tom Morton-Smith's faithful adaptation, and the result feels like a loving homage to the film in both its embrace of visual quirkiness and wilful ignorance of narrative convention."


Arifa Akbar, The Guardian

★★★★★

"The sisters Satsuki (Ami Okumura Jones) and Mei (Mei Mac) are played by adults and appear cartoonishly excitable at the start but they win us over. Mac, who plays the younger sister, almost seems to transform into an infant. Her fall in the hollow of the camphor tree in which she meets Totoro is a magnificent set-piece combining a multilayered set with swirling movement and mime. The relationships between the two girls and their father (Dai Tabuchi) are caught tenderly and both are quietly moving in their understated yearning for their hospitalised mother (Haruka Abe)."

"The set, designed by Tom Pye, is as mobile as origami, with a central revolve used in wonderful ways; the movement never feels giddy but creates a great sense of flow, as if the pages of a graphic novel have come to life. "



Sam Marlowe, The Stage

★★★★★

"Black-clad puppeteer-performers glide among the sliding screens and sinewy branches of Tom Pye's set, like benign, watchful ghosts. They conjure fields of swaying corn and rice paddies, flocks of butterflies, fluffy chickens and darting soot sprites. Given kinetic energy by You-Ri Yamanaka's elegant movement and Twist's artistry, everything is gloriously alive.

"Music by the film's original composer Joe Hisaishi, performed by a treetop band and singer Ai Ninomiya, is by turns bouncy and shimmering; Jessica Hung Han Yun's lighting drenches everything in sunbeams and moonlight; and the cast perfectly marry playfulness and truthful emotional simplicity to extraordinary technical sophistication."


Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

★★★★★

"There's a constant sense of movement, the show whisked forward by gliding screens and Will Stuart's delicate orchestrations of Joe Hisaishi's music, played live by a band perched in the trees. McDermott dusts it all with an air of mischief, including small, deliberate gaffes as reminders that this world springs to life courtesy of the puppeteers and our own willingness to join Mei and let our imaginations animate nature."


Ami Okumura Jones, Mei Mac
© RSC and Nippon TV, photo by Manuel Harlan


Clive Davis, The Times

★★★★

"The enormous, glowing Cat Bus, with a grin reminiscent of that Seventies hustler, Fritz the Cat, sweeps back and forth. I was, though, equally taken with the hustling, bustling flock of humble chickens. In a particularly clever touch the puppeteers send themselves up with cleverly choreographed gaffes.

"Tom Pye's faux-primitive production design delivers a delightful melange of wooden homes and tangle of forest, all stunningly lit by Jessica Hung Han Yun. A live band, perched in the branches, becomes a silhouetted part of the landscape."


Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

★★★★

"There's a humble, faux-naif quality to some of the scenic elements, but Totoro is magnificently humongous with a mighty, reverberating growl, wicked smile, lumbering walk and bouncy castle of a fluffy tum.

"The wow-factor of his spectacular appearances, worth the price of admission alone, is matched by the hallucinogenic, 12-legged ‘Cat-bus', a bright yellow, internally lit inflatable sight to behold, with search-light eyes and serrated grin. Yes, the first half climax, with fast-sprouting mega-tree, and lo-fi flying Totoro, smacks overly of panto but in toto it's a triumph."


Nick Curtis, Evening Standard

★★★

"The blimp-like Totoro, his rabbity minions and the enormous 12-legged cat bus that transports people across the sky in its abdomen are powerfully realised through giant puppetry and inflatables in McDermott's production.

"But like the delicate, half-whimsical, half-creepy visuals of Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 film, this adaptation is easier to admire than to love. Never mind: the Barbican apparently took a bigger advance for this than for Benedict Cumberbatch's 2015 Hamlet."

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