As a course leader at The International School of Storytelling, Danyah Miller can certainly spin a good yarn. Here at the Fringe, she is turning her talents to the baffling question of why we strive so desperately for perfection, often at high costs. Her one-woman show Perfectly Imperfect Women is a fabulous and diverse performance that cleverly weaves fairytales and audience involvement into fascinating journey through Danyah’s family history. Broadway Baby’s Carla van der Sluijs met Danyah to talk about the show, the art of audience inclusion, and the inclusivity of feminism.
Men in the audience tell me the title is wrong
Perfection is a theme that Danyah has carefully considered for the show, and it has led her to some insightful observations. ‘It’s very interesting how many people say “I don’t want to be perfect,”’ she says, ‘and then we start unpicking it to discover that there’s lots of traits in many people that really are about wanting to show something that is as good as it can be.’
How Danyah came across storytelling is a tale in itself. Having trained in drama and dance, she went on to study physical theatre at Lecoq in Paris, but found that something was missing. ‘I always felt when I was in role as an actor that [the performance] didn’t really in work in the same way as when I tell a story. A friend of mine sent me an email with the heading “I think you’d be good at this.” It was an advertisement for a storyteller required to work in a school. I applied, and it felt like coming home really.’
Danyah seems to have a real knack for getting her theatregoers involved in show discussions whilst not allowing anyone to feel pressured or singled out. How does she manage this? ‘I really feel that you can’t expect people to talk’ she tells me, ‘you have to earn the right to ask people to do things, so I think it’s a lot about trust.’ Her technique of asking people to stand up or sit down in response to statements seems effective. ‘I recognise that some people might be nervous about it but I say “I’m not going to ask you individually and I’m only going to ask you yes and no questions”.’
Many may be wondering whether a show titled Perfectly Imperfect Women is a feminist show. Danyah’s answer is yes. ‘It’s a story from a woman about women. For me, feminism means that we want to respect and appreciate women equally with men.’ However, the title of the show has produced some interesting debate. ‘Men in the audience tell me the title is wrong’ she explains ‘because the theme applies to men too, but I think a show can still relate to them even if it has women in the title.’
Danyah first visited the Fringe in a backstage role with the National Student theatre company in 1984. However, it wasn’t until 2009, when she’d finally discovered her love of storytelling, that she returned with her own show. For a storyteller, the Fringe holds an unusual appeal in the practice of leafleting. ‘Something that I don’t do anywhere else is flyering,’ Danyah explains, ‘so I’m meeting the public all the time and asking what they’ve been to see. I like sharing stories with people, and I like hearing other people’s stories.’
Look out for Danyah next time you’re walking down the Royal Mile. She’ll be the flyerer smiling in the rain.
Read our (five-star) review and see performance times here: http://broadwaybaby.com/shows/perfectly-imperfect-women/723283