With front row seats, I could smell the fake blood, gunpowder and feel the anticipation in the intimate New Diorama theatre. Whispers of excitement were silenced as the tree spirits entered the stage and the magic of Princess Mononoke began.
The show has a very tribal and urban theme to it, with not just the stage but the whole theatre and staircases decorated like a forest. Whole Hog Productions have ensured to keep inline of the original Princess Mononoke plot, making it their own and adding in interpretive dance to several of the scenes.
The costumes are beautifully handcrafted with an oriental patchwork theme running throughout. The production had a small budget which the team have utilised. They have been very resourceful; making amazing puppets of the forest creatures from everyday objects such as feathers, cassette tapes and crutches. I especially loved the use of the cassette film, which is used to effectively show the infection of the boars.
The casting in the production was spot on, Lady Obshi comes to life from the screen and kudos to the actor portraying Yubel (Aktashi’s red elk) – he kept up that stern expression the entire way through the play, making animal growls and whimpers throughout. A lot of concentration and dedication was needed to pull that off; you almost forget he is a human by the end of the play!
As well as excellent acting, all the performers no matter how petite, were incredibly strong – most carrying each other as part of the role or in the interpretive dance sections – even the petite Mei who plays Princess Mononoke, manages to carry Prince Akastashi! They’ve obviously been on the protein shakes!
My only criticism is that due the small theatre and short run length, not more people will be able to see this, I am pleased that there has been another run launched in June but I know so many people who have still been unable to get tickets!
Please note, friends who have seen this and were seated nearer the back found they had a restricted view, so if you have tickets for the June viewing make the effort to get there earlier and grab a seat near the front! If you want the full ‘Westend experience’ there is a very cute Japanese restaurant a short walk from the theatre.
Thanks to Whole Hog’s work, I hope more Studio Ghibli performances will be bought to the stage. I wish the team good luck in there future endeavors and hope that there will be more releases of UK showings.
Photo credits – http://www.flickr.com/photos/wholehogtheatre/