Sell-out show My Neighbour Totoro nearly lost after power cut

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The sell-out show My Neighbour Totoro was nearly lost after the electrics cut out during another show at the Barbican Centre, a City of London committee heard on Monday.

An issue with the electrics at the world-famous Barbican theatre in September nearly brought curtains down on the performance, weeks before the hit show was meant to begin.

To protect the Studio Ghibli stage adaptation, the Barbican has now spent £100,000 on a generator to reduce the risk of the lights going out.

The Barbican first came across the electricity problem when flying gear, used to lift heavy items during the show, shut down during a public performance of another show in September 2022. The theatre’s electricity is at the “end of life”, a Barbican committee meeting heard today.

My Neighbour Totoro broke the Barbican’s box office record when tickets first went online in May 2022, with seats originally selling for as little as £10 with a special TikTok deal.

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The show, a collaboration between executive producer Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company, has run for 13 weeks so far and it is set to finish at the end of the month.

City of London officer Claire Spencer told the committee: “This is the most unusual and unsatisfactory situation that we find ourselves in. Without the diligence and commitment of the engineering team, we would have lost that show.”

The committee also heard that the problem is ongoing and engineers are trying to figure out what is going on. Surveys were taken before the New Year to try and get to the bottom of the problem and to make sure the Studio Ghibli adaptation can keep going.

Another committee member added: “The electrical infrastructure here is at end of its life. We are suffering from critical failures, not only [in the theatre] but in other areas of the building.”

A City of London report into the issue said: “There have been several incidents of high voltages but there is no regularity or pattern allowing us to predict low or high-risk times or to easily identify the cause.

“There is a three-phase plan in operation. A short-term interim solution has been implemented which has removed the risk of an outage or failure that would stop a performance of Totoro.

“The next phased works will follow the current show at the end of January.”

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