Actors of East and Southeast Asian heritage have long remained in the shadows of British performing arts, competing for stereotypical or often token roles with few opportunities to grab the limelight.

So when "My Neighbour Totoro," a new play produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) based on Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 Japanese animation, came along with an entire cast comprising British East and Southeast Asian (BESEA) actors, it felt like a milestone had been achieved, members of the play's creative team say in an interview.

"It was moving to walk in on Day One and see so many faces like mine ... and if that's happened before in this country and in this industry, it's only happened a couple of times," says Ami Okumura Jones, who stars as Satsuki in the play about two sisters who move to rural Japan and befriend Totoro, a magical forest spirit.