Date: 2023 August 22 16:45
Posted by Joe
The stage play adaption of The Garden of Words is now hitting the theatre. Set to run from Thursday 10th August until Saturday 9th September 2023 at London's Park Theatre. We've been following the progress of this play since it was announced a few years ago, so were naturally keen to catch a performance on stage.
The Garden of Words is a stage play adaptation of Makoto Shinkai's anime and book of the same name. It tells the story of teenager Takao who meets by chance an adult woman, Yukari, in a garden in the rain. An unlikely friendship blooms between the two misfits.
It has been adapted to the stage by the Whole Hog Theatre who specialise in Anglo-Japanese productions. They have successfully brought Princess Monoke to the theatre so are very familiar with anime and its appeal.
We thought The Garden of Words would work well as a stage production and the Whole Hog Theatre have done a brilliant adaptation. They have embraced the source material's anime roots, using projections onto the stage to blend the 2D anime realm and the real 3D world. The images acknowledge the Shinaki colour palette, favouring his bright golden sunrises and sunsets and effectively emphasise the rain. The projection technique doesn't dominate as it's not over used. It's effectively sets the scene and the cut out of the Tokyo skyline is particularly inspired.
What really surprised us was the announcement they would be using puppetry. How would this be incorporated into a story set in modern day urban Tokyo?! When we then saw it in action, we were amused and it made perfect sense. As is tradition, we won't spoil it for you, as experiencing it is half of the fun.
The play captures the spirit of the anime and the book versions of the story. It acknowledges the day to day grind and drudgery of city living, the longing for being somewhere else or doing something better. The crowded trains scenes are particularly fun because they playfully capture the feel of Tokyo rush hour. The play still has Shinkai's original melancholy, which has always been more prominent in his pre- your name works, but it's well balanced with humour in just the right places.
While the original anime is about the encounter between Takao and Yukari, the stage play takes more material from the book and it allows it to fill out rolls of the other characters. The play is a standalone work in its own right. You don't need to have seen the original anime film or read the book or manga to enjoy this.
The secondary story at school is well handled and balances out the melancholy but also adds a mix of comedy and drama.
Making his stage debut, Hiroki Berrecloth captures the essence of an out of step Takao dreaming about an uncertain future. Aki Nakagawa plays Yukari as a woman clearly looking to escape from her troubles. James Bradwell plays Takao's older brother and brings in a note of comic relief as the straight laced, mature one in the family. Susan Momoko Hingley is having a fantastic time as the boys' mother, making appearances at home in an unpredictable manner.
All these elements come together for an immersive theatre performance of drama, romance, with a light sprinkle of humour. You're in for a highly entertaining evening that's faithful to the source material, but also doing its own original take on a different format. The Whole Hog Theatre should be commended for another triumph.
The Park200 stage at the Park Theatre sits 200 people; resulting in a rather intimate performance. You're all up close to actors making it an extra special evening. Anime and manga rarely gets adapted to the stage in English and it's great to be able go and see it in London. A performance of this calibre is worth catching, regardless of if you've seen the original source material.
We suggest you book tickets and see it while it's still running!