To hold the attention of young children for anything longer than about 20 minutes is a real skill but Danyah Miller has it down to a fine art.
Indeed her current show, an hour long adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Why The Whales Came, had her mostly young audience rapt from the off.
The story is set in the Scilly Isles right at the beginning of the First World War and features two children who defy their parents’ wishes and visit the Birdman, an elderly man who the islanders believe has put a curse on the island of Samson.
However the children realise that far from being a mad man and someone to be afraid of, he is actually nothing of the kind, and is in fact someone that cares very much about the environment in which he lives. And it eventually falls to the children to stand up to their parents when a whale is washed up on the beach - the islanders want to kill it but the children, inspired by the Birdman, urge them to help get the whale back into the sea.
Danyah tells the story by means of a few props which are ingeniously hidden in her simple but effective wooden set which transforms itself from a jetty to a home to a bed and to a boat.
And all the while she skips, jumps and climbs in and around the set and even wades and paddles in the water that appears when one part of the set exposes itself to become a beach. There is also an element of puppetry which is rather beautiful.
It is a wonderful story brilliantly told that kept the audience entranced from start to finish.
Why The Whales Came is on at the Ovalhouse Theatre, until January 31 and then on tour including the Lyric Hammersmith on January 28 and The Southbank Centre on February 17. Tickets cost £11. Visit http://www.wizardpresents.co.uk/production/why-the-whales-came/ or call the box office on 020 7582 7680 for full listings.