The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) today announced full details of its festive programme of productions for Winter 2022 including the world premiere of the stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro which will open at London’s Barbican for a strictly limited run from 8 October 2022, plus the return of David Edgar’s critically-acclaimed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, playing in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 26 October 2022.

Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman said: “I am thrilled to be announcing these two magical shows for families. They continue distinguished RSC traditions of centring the imagination and resilience of children and celebrating the possibility of change. After many years of development I am proud our collaboration with Joe Hisaishi and Studio Ghibli is taking flight at the Barbican in what is set to be a ground-breaking and spectacular theatrical event and delighted that Phelim McDermott will at long last make his RSC debut. Meanwhile in Stratford David Edgar’s Christmas Carol in Rachel Kavanaugh’s entrancing staging seems more timely than ever - a witty, joyful clarion call for a kinder world.”

My Neighbour Totoro - Saturday 8 October 2022 – Saturday 21 January 2023 - Presented by Executive Producer Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), My Neighbour Totoro will open at the iconic Barbican for a 15-week season from Saturday 8 October 2022 – Saturday 21 January 2023 with press night on Tuesday 18 October 2022. Priority booking will open from 10am on Monday 9 May 2022, with public booking opening at 10am on Thursday 19 May 2022.

The celebrated 1988 animated feature film by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) will be brought to the stage by its original composer Joe Hisaishi in a landmark new adaptation by the RSC (Matilda The Musical) written by playwright Tom Morton-Smith (Oppenheimer).

This enchanting coming-of-age story explores the magical fantasy world of childhood and the transformative power of imagination, as it follows one extraordinary summer in the lives of sisters Satsuki and Mei.

In order to be closer to their mother while she recovers from an illness in a rural convalescent hospital, their father moves the family to the countryside. As the girls explore their beautiful new surroundings, Mei encounters magical creatures and the ancient protector of the forest she calls Totoro.

Although Satsuki doesn’t believe her little sister at first, they are soon both swept up in exciting adventures with their new neighbours – transported to a long-forgotten realm of spirits, sprites, and natural wonder.

Joe Hisaishi, Executive Producer and Original Composer of My Neighbour Totoro, said: “In Japan, many people are passionate about theatre and musicals, but there are no original Japanese shows or musicals performed in the world. “Totoro” is a Japanese work famous throughout the world, and so this stage adaptation could have the potential to reach global audiences. That’s what I thought, and I told Mr Miyazaki “I want to see such a show” and he said “yes, only if you are going to do it”.

“This responsibility is a huge task, but we chose to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a globally prestigious company, and with their support we can make it happen. I am delighted that the RSC have become our partner because I feel much in common between the quality of the RSC and Mr. Miyazaki’s aesthetic. This is a ground-breaking project. Phelim McDermott is a wonderful director, and his team are enthusiastic, creative and very hardworking. They love Totoro and the sense of anticipation is high.

“I was involved with the original animation film, and so I feel strongly about not harming the film. If the story is universal – as I believe it is - it will have a global reach even if it is performed by people from different cultural backgrounds speaking different languages. I was sure of this – and so we have chosen to open outside Japan. To me this was important. It’s vital to keep distance with the film but it’s also important to have new encounters. That’s why I put my trust in this project. I believe it will be a great show.”

Directed by Phelim McDermott with production design by Tom Pye, costumes by Kimie Nakano, lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun, and movement by You-Ri Yamanaka, the production will feature puppetry created by Basil Twist and music from Joe Hisaishi’s iconic score in a new orchestration by Will Stuart, performed live with sound design by Tony Gayle. Associate Director is Ailin Conant. Artwork for the stage adaptation of My Neighbour Totoro includes a hand drawn title by Toshio Suzuki, Producer for Studio Ghibli, who was involved in the planning and production of the original animated film. Casting for the production to be announced soon.

The production is supported by Spanish Luxury House LOEWE, the Headline Sponsor of My Neighbour Totoro, whose connection with Studio Ghibli began in 2021 with the creation of a capsule collection inspired by the original animated film.

A Christmas Carol - Wednesday 26 Oct 2022 to Sunday 1 Jan 2023 - Following its premiere in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2017, David Edgar’s hugely successful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ much-loved classic story A Christmas Carol makes a welcome return to Stratford-upon-Avon this Christmas from Wednesday 26 October 2022 to Sunday 1 January 2023.

Described by The Telegraph as “a magnificent achievement”, David Edgar’s socially-conscious adaptation of Dickens’ classic fable opened in 2017 to critical acclaim in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where it played to sell-out audiences. The production was later revived the following year due to audience demand.

This festive tale of redemption and compassion follows cold-hearted businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, who – over the course of one ghostly Christmas night – learns to pity himself and to love his neighbour – but is that enough?

Playwright David Edgar said: “As a young playwright in the 1980s it was a privilege to be asked by Trevor Nunn to adapt Charles Dickens’ relatively unknown but brilliant early novel Nicholas Nickleby for the RSC. Nearly 40 years later, I was delighted to be invited back, to adapt what is probably Dickens’ best-loved and best-known story.

“In 1843, Dickens read a parliamentary report on the conditions of children in the mines and factories of what was aptly called the Hungry Forties, and resolved to write an angry political pamphlet, to be published that Christmas, calling for reform. By the end of the year he’d produced not a tract but a universal story of how benevolence is stronger than greed. I wanted to put Dickens and his ambitions in the foreground of the adaptation. In Rachel Kavanaugh’s wonderful production – combining a glorious set with dazzling choreography and musical score - we see Dickens construct his story before our very eyes.

“When we premiered the show in 2017, millions were already relying on food banks and beggars haunted city streets. Covid and the cost of living crisis have made economic inequality – and raw poverty – an even more pressing reality. And yet – in the way the nation came together around the NHS to combat the pandemic – we have been reminded of the selflessness and generosity of spirit which lies at the heart of Dickens’s enduringly optimistic story.”

David Edgar has been writing plays professionally since 1971. As one of the UK’s greatest living playwrights, David’s rich history with the RSC spans over four decades making him the company’s most produced living writer to date.

His original plays for the RSC include: Destiny (1976); Maydays (1983, revived in a new version in 2018 directed by Owen Horsley); Pentecost (1994, transferring to the Young Vic, London, 1995); The Prisoner’s Dilemma (2001); Written on the Heart (2011, transferring to the Duchess Theatre, London, 2012) and A Christmas Carol, his first Dickens adaptation since the multi-award winning production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby in 1980, which premiered at the Aldwych Theatre before transferring to Broadway in 1981 where it went on to win The Society of West End Theatre and Tony award for ‘Best Play’. In 2019, David wrote and performed his one-man solo show Trying It On, which toured to the Birmingham Rep, the RSC’s The Other Place, the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and the Traverse Theatre during the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, and on tour.

A Christmas Carol is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis with lighting by Tim Mitchell. Sound Design is by Fergus O’Hare with Movement by Georgina Lamb.

The production is supported by Pragnell, the Headline Sponsor of A Christmas Carol. The Stratford-upon-Avon founded, sixth generation family-owned jewellers is a long-standing supporter of the RSC’s work. Charlie Pragnell said: “Pragnell is proud to announce a new partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, sponsoring productions across the coming years, starting with A Christmas Carol. We are delighted and honoured to support the RSC which enriches lives through broadening the understanding of Shakespeare’s works all around the world.”