Daynah Miller talks about bringing her kids show KIKA’S BIRTHDAY to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: DANYAH MILLER (Wizard Presents)
Name of Edinburgh show: KIKA’S BIRTHDAY
Performance time: 11.30AM
Show length: 50 MINS
Ticket price: FROM £6.50 – £10.00

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I am a storyteller, writer, trainer and theatre producer. I work internationally as a solo performer, including ‘I Believe in Unicorns’ (which premiered at Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 before touring the UK, internationally and had two West End runs) and ‘Why the Whales Came’ (national and international touring) both by Michael Morpurgo, ’Perfectly Imperfect Women – a biographical wonder tale’ which I wrote and which we brought to the Fringe last year and ‘Kika’s Birthday’, a co-production with Little Angel Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre, which I co-wrote with her husband, John Miller.

We have won a number of awards for our work including an Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence at Brighton Festival 2014 and an Audience Choice Award for ‘Get Creative Family Arts Festival’ in 2015.

As a storytelling trainer I teach the art of storytelling across the country, in schools, children’s centres, libraries, with local councils and universities sharing stories. I have been a workshop leader at International School of Storytelling for over 10 years. For 3 years I was a regular contributor on BBC Three Counties Radio and I recorded a 5-part version of ‘The Snow Queen’ for BBC Radio Solent.

My degree is in drama, dance and English (Bretton Hall College) and I later trained at Lecoq in Paris.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
The show is an interactive story, in verse and prose, with puppet and music, suitable for children, from 4 years, and their families. The story was created when my daughter was very young and was inspired by us watching tiny mice running up and down the wisteria at our home, to feast on the nuts in the birdfeeder. I told my daughter the story whilst baking a cake for tea.

As the audience arrives I am preparing for my daughter’s birthday. The only thing left for me to do is bake the cake. Whilst I am in the process of this I begin to tell the story of Kika, a little French mouse, who’s going to be 5 years old! Her British family has planned a birthday surprise, with friends, songs and a grasshopper band! But that Bright Orange Cat is paying a lot of attention to the mice. Does she want to join the party, make new friends and share some birthday cake, or does she have something else in mind?

Our mice (Sugar, Butter, Flour and Egg – who plays drums!) have been delightfully created by designer, Alison Alexander, from kitchen tea towels and paper bags. We only glimpse parts of That Bright Orange Cat as the mice prepare a beautiful birthday breakfast for Kika.

By the time Kika wakes up on the morning of her birthday, the cake is cooked and smells delicious.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I originally wrote this story in 2003 in prose, but much later John (my husband and business partner) and I turned it into a story in verse, before publishing it.

I was delighted when we discussed the possibility of creating a show in collaboration with our friends at Little Angel Theatre in Islington and Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. It opened, in the round, at Orange Tree at Christmas (2017) To the delight of audience young and old. Many of the children were drawn to dance with Kika at the end of the show before sharing some of her cake. We transferred the show to Little Angel for 5 weeks in April and May but this time on an ‘end on stage’.

There are a number of wants that I think this is relevant to audiences in 2018-06-26

1) I believe that stories and storytelling is always relevant to children (and adults) as a way to learn about the world and about our place within it.

2) More specifically, I’m aware that many children today are exposed to experiences and images that can leave them overwhelmed and over-stimulated. I wanted to create a theatrical storytelling ‘adventure’ that was truly engaging but also gentle and playful… with a touch of jeopardy that resolves ‘in the end’.

3) I love the seasons in our country and I wanted to acknowledge each season within the story, particularly as many children don’t get the opportunity to wander in nature, watch and observe the wonders that are happening right under our noses.

4) When my daughter was young I attended a workshop about how to celebrate birthdays and make them magical. This workshop has transformed all the birthdays in our family and I wanted to share some of these ideas and this joy with others.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Golly, that’s a hard question! Throw yourself into the adventure and excitement of it all, soak up the atmosphere and chat to everyone. Take risks on the shows that you choose to see. Don’t take yourself too seriously and sleep in September!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
One of funniest things I remember, whilst performing another family show ‘I Believe in Unicorns’ by Michael Morpurgo in a very intimate studio setting, was that a boy, who had been fully engaged with all the interaction, suddenly turned to his mum and in a very loud voice shouted ‘mum, put her on pause, I need the loo’.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I know you probably want me to ‘name names’ but honestly I’m inspired by many individuals – both on stage and behind the scenes – who work collaboratively to craft and create exhilarating and magical theatre. I have had the delight and privilege to work with many people who inspire me.

I really like radio and I love listening to Chris Evans on Radio Two each morning. He is warm and bubbly, kind and generous. I love how rebellious and spontaneous he is.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Just before I go on stage I ask that the story be a gift to the audience that is there with me on that day and I ask the ‘storytellers of times gone by’ to guide me during the performance.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I love physical theatre, mime and acrobatics. I look out for shows that have a good story and am delighted when that story is beautifully told. I’m really looking forward to discovering new companies as well as returning to see companies that I follow throughout the year.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
If you and your young children love superb storytelling, music, puppets, dancing and cake then this is certainly the perfect show for you!…. but watch out for The Bright Orange Cat you never know where she might be lurking.


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