Shinkai Makoto Anime THE GARDEN OF WORDS Heads to London Stage
One week ago, Shinkai Makoto's Weathering With You opened in U.S. theaters and is already among my favorite films from the past 365 days. It's also been widely acclaimed by critics, as noted at Rotten Tomatoes, and has proven to be a popular success, as calculated by Box Office Mojo.
The story "takes flight into the fantastical while never losing sight of earthbound realities," as I wrote in my review, and thus fits well within the director's oeuvre, including his features Your Name (2016), 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), as well as the shorter Voices of a Distant Star (2002).
Among those fine films is The Garden of Words (2013), which is now being mounted in London for the first time on stage by the Whole Hog Theatre in association with Park Theatre. It will mark the world's first international/English language stage production of Shinkai Makoto's work.
Per the official description: "Based on the stereotype-defying film by world-renowned director Makoto Shinkai (your name.), The Garden of Words is a modern Tokyo tale inspired by ancient Man'yōshū poetry. This subtle drama explores invisible disability, loss of human connection in a digital world and challenges us to consider the moral line between platonic and romantic longing.
"When a student and an older woman meet by chance whilst seeking solace in a Japanese garden, their mutual feelings of alienation draw them together. But a truth is about to be uncovered. The friendship that could save them might also ruin them."
In his review of the film for ScreenAnarchy, Trung Rwo stated: "The most impressive thing about The Garden of Words are the vibrant and unique visual elements. In this latest film, he continues to develop his own unique style. Clean and cute, a little bit cheesy even, Shinkai uses excessive glare and light pink tones, and the result is a bombastic, impressive 46-minute picture."
Thus, it appears that the stage production faces both challenges and opportunities; interpreting the film's visual approach is the most pertinent, perhaps, yet the screen story is open to expansion, which should allow a stage production to manifest its own personality. How will the animated film be translated for the stage? Per the official description: "This interdisciplinary adaptation delves into Shinkai's visually emotive story through puppetry, movement and projection art. Performed in English with occasional Japanese."
So that sounds good. And Whole Hog Theatre previously mounted an adaptation of Princess Mononoke, which also bodes well for this upcoming production.
The Garden of Words, directed by Alexandra Rutter in collaboration with Nelke Planning, Tokyo, will open at Park Theatre in London and is set to run from July 16 to August 15, 2020.