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My Theatre Firsts: I Believe in Unicorns star Danyah Miller

We caught up with the actress who begins her show at the Vaudeville Theatre this week

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Danyah Miller in I Believe in Unicorns
© Richard Davenport

Danyah Miller is currently starring in I Believe in Unicorns based on the story by best-selling children's author Michael Morpurgo.

Set in a library full of books that hold more than stories within their pages, I Believe in Unicorns is a tale of the power of books, and the bravery of a young boy called Tomas.

We caught up with Danyah to find out some of her theatre firsts...

What was the first show you went to?

I didn't get taken to the theatre very often but when I did I just felt myself well up with excitement and delight at each show. One of the first I remember was seeing Cirque Imaginaire, although I don't remember where. I was completely entranced by it; the physicality, acrobatics and circus skills. The performance by Geraldine Chaplin was astonishing full of beauty and poetry that took my breath away. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Time stopped and I wanted the show to last forever.

When did you first decide to become an actor?

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be on stage. I performed little dances and songs in my grandparents sitting room when I was 5 - 7 years old, making up stories and dressing up to enact them. I created stories and spoke them out to my family of dolls if there was no people around to listen. I didn't particularly want to be ‘someone else' but rather I wanted to share stories with others, make them laugh. I loved the creating of the show as much as the performing of it.

Who was the first actor you were inspired by?

It's difficult to know if they was the first but I remember that after watching Emma Thompson and Robert Lindsay in Me and My Girl at the Adelphi Theatre I danced all the way home, swinging from lamp-post to lamp post. I also loved seeing Lindsey Duncan and Alan Rickman in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. At 18 I moved to London for a year living with a family as their au pair. During that time, on my day off, I would travel into the West End and if possible watch two different shows, one matinee and one in the evening.

What was your first professional role?

I produced and performed in our adaptation of It was a Dark and Stormy Night by Allan Ahlberg which we toured and then took to Edinburgh Fringe for a couple of weeks. We got great audience feedback and reviews.

How did you react to your first review?

Reviews are a double edged sword. I know from a producer's and marketing point of view they are really important and necessary. As a performer however I try not to take too much notice - I prefer to treat them like a flower, smell them but don't swallow them! I am very fortunate to have had mainly good reviews (so far!). I remember reading one which was glowing about my performance in particular and I lost my head a little, until a couple of days later when we received one which was less favourable. I came straight back down to earth with a bang. Of course the second review has stayed with me whilst the first I can't remember now!

What was the first piece of advice you were given in your acting career?

‘If you can do anything else rather than act, then go and do that. Get a good education and a degree first so you always have something to fall back on'. I followed this advice and although I have enjoyed a really interesting and eclectic career journey, I would never give this advice to someone who passionately wants to perform, I would say to them ‘follow your dreams - always!' It has taken me a long time to get to really where I want to be.

Which is the first word that comes to your head when I say theatre?


If you were directing I Believe in Unicorns, who is the first person you would think of to cast in your role?

A wonderful actor called Gilly Tompkins is the first person who springs to my mind.

What is the first thing you will do when your run in I Believe in Unicorns comes to an end?

This show continues to tour throughout Autumn of this year, opening at Watford Palace Theatre in September. Afterward perhaps a short holiday in France with my family, to swim in the river and sleep a little but then straight into rehearsals for our next show!

If you could choose any role that you would like to take on next, what is the first that comes to mind?

Since I love creating shows for families, my ideal next project would be to create a show based on another Morpurgo book, because his stories are incredibly rich and powerful. I would also want to do this with the creative team from Unicorns as we worked fabulously well together and had so much fun too.