Reviewed by Holly Raeburn
Most films are a hard task to translate to the stage and Princess Mononoke is certainly ambitious. A two and a half hour Japanese animation by studio Ghibli, Hayo Miyazaki’s story of myths, forest spirits, battles and gods addresses the fundamental point of man versus nature and the harmony and disharmony in both. True to the film, the production plays out such grand ideas beautifully and we are whisked away into a childlike dream-scape.
Young warrior Ashitaka is a marked man. Cursed by a demon god whilst defending his village, he must leave his home forever to seek a cure. In the forbidding forests to the west, he is forced to reconcile the warring human forces and the animal deities of times past. In the midst of this bitter and bloody conflict, he meets the wolf god Moro and her human child San: Princess Mononoke.
We forget we are in a tiny (when I say tiny I mean TINY) theatre and we are taken away into Miyazaki’s land. The magical backdrop of trees and glow in the dark forest spirits ‘Kadamas’, have a childlike, endearing appeal.
There is an amateur element to the acting at times, but the passion and dedication is evident among the cast and it is clear they are giving it their all. It’s surely no easy task to be having a sword fight on a stage the size of a matchbox, trying hard to not skim the noses of all in the front row but they did it!
With elements of puppetry, dance, and well choreographed fight scenes, this production could soar if given a bigger stage and a bigger budget. The production has long been sold out and even an extended performance schedule in June is impossible to find a ticket for.
The New Diorama Theatre itself is very welcoming with a personal feel. It has a reasonably priced café and small seating area. The entire experience is warm and endearing. £2 will buy you a show programme which is nothing more than a few colour photocopies of the cast list. Not really worth buying as a souvenir, but to fund a great place like this, such a tiny new theatre and production company should be supported as much as possible.
At times the story may get lost, but the charm of the costumes mean you wont be able to take your eyes off of what is happening on stage and the story becomes almost irrelevant as you are transfixed in the moment.
The New Diorama Theatre is conveniently located opposite Great Portland Street tube station, although it does not look like your typical theatre and you would be forgiven for thinking it was an office block.