In a time when Harry Potter was a mere twinkle in his parents’ eyes, Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful 1989 film Kiki’s Delivery Service offered whimsical insight into the trials and tribulations of being young and charged with superpowers. Accompanied by a snap-talking black cat called Jiji, Kiki is the witch-in-training who is posted off by her mother from the countryside to the city where she can learn how to use her powers for the greater good. The film remains one of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved creations (and Kiki one of its most beloved characters), and it ends very memorably with a death-defying dirigible chase across the rooftops of a quaint Mittel-European burg.
Would it be possible to attain the full-strength Kiki experience anywhere other than via animation? It has been proven than the anime-to-live-action switcheroo is not impossible. In 2013, Whole Hog Theatre successfully adapted Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke for the stage. They recreated the otherworldly anime aesthetic by creating an army of Ghibli-esque woodland ghouls from recycled materials. The concept of the theatrical performance was such a hit among crowds that tickets sold out in four and a half hours, and that was nine months before opening night.
This forthcoming Kiki’s Delivery Service adaptation is being directed by Katie Hewitt who recently received the 2016 Royal Theatrical Support Trust Director Award, which was judged by Ian McKellen among others. She has worked alongside Oscar-winner Sam Mendes as Associate Director on his recent production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical.
South African born Jessica Siàn had the honour of adapting the mystical tale, which was itself based on a 1985 novel by Eiko Kadono. Siàn earned recognition after her debut play, Klippies (which was also with Southwark Playhouse), successfully received rave reviews during its initial four week run. Since her debut, Siàn has been writing her second play The Knock-Knock Beatle as well as reinterpreting Studio Ghibli masterpiece.
Kiki’s Delivery Service plays at the Southwark Playhouse from 8 December to 8 January 2017. For more details head to southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
Published 25 Aug 2016
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