Ahead of best selling children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s Why the Whales Came, coming to life at Tobacco Factory Theatres this July, we caught up with multi award-winning performer and storyteller Danyah Miller of theatre company Wizard Presents for a chat about the show.
What should families expect from the show here in Bristol?
The show is a physical, theatrical storytelling adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s superb story. It takes place, during the First World War, on the Island of Bryher in the Scilly Isles where two young children are forbidden to go near the mysterious and seemingly dangerous Birdman.
Without giving too much away there are a few props hidden in our simple wooden set which itself transforms from a jetty to a home to a bed to a boat. I wade and paddle in the water when part of the set become a beach and there’s an element of quirky puppetry too. We’ve seen that this show engages the whole family from 7 years to 107 years!
Why the Whales Came has been seen by over 11,000 people so far. How are audiences reacting to the show?
I‘m always thrilled when audience members come to speak to me at the end of the show and share their experience with me, tell me that they’ve laughed and cried, how they really saw The Birdman. Also, I suspect that the most thrilling response for me was the standing ovation we received at Royal Festival Hall, where we played to over 1200 people.
What are the main challenges as a performer and what has it taught you?
Whilst in rehearsals the main challenge for us as a creative team was to adapt this complex book into a one hour storytelling show, without losing the integrity of the story. For me personally I had to find and define the three main characters: 2 young children and an old man, through my voice and body, switching from one to another and back to storyteller. I was lucky to work with a superb director, Dani Parr and excellent vocal and movement coaches who pushed, challenged and stretched me as a performer. The set designed during our devising process, by Kate Bunce, is integral to my performance and gives me many layers and levels on which to play and explore.
How involved was Michael Morpurgo in the creative process for the show?
Michael Morpurgo offered us free rein to translate the story from page to stage, appreciating that they are two different mediums. That enabled us to do our best work without constrictions. We’re always searching for theatrical ways to stay true to the essence of the original story. Michael came to see the show at Royal Festival Hall – I was very nervous as it matters a great deal to me that he likes what we’ve done… he loved the show – phew!
Why the Whales Came runs at Tobacco Factory Theatres from Tue 11 – Sat 15 July. For more information and to book tickets please visit the show page.
Posted on 21 June 2017