Sofie Miller: 'It feels like I've been preparing for this all my life'
- Kelly Apter
- 20 August 2021
Danyah Miller was badly injured ahead of an interactive Fringe storytelling show about Pippi Longstocking. Luckily she didn't have to look very far for the ideal replacement
The pandemic has caused many a show to cancel or reconfigure itself. So the fact that storyteller Danyah Miller was unexpectedly floored just as she was about to head to Edinburgh isn't unusual. Except it wasn't Covid that hit her hard: it was a large dog. 'She was bowled over by a dog running at very high speed and broke her shoulder badly,' explains daughter Sofie Miller. 'Which means she can't travel and she definitely can't perform; so I've stepped into the role. I'm her homegrown understudy and it feels like I've been preparing for this all my life.'
When Sofie says 'all my life', she isn't joking. The Pippi Longstocking books were a bedtime favourite for the now 19-year-old, who will deliver interactive children's show Meet Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking herself. 'I've been completely brought up on the stories. When people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "ginger". I always thought I was Pippi; I used to dress up as her and went to all the World Book Day events as her. I wore plaits religiously and, of course, I thought I was the strongest girl in the world.'
The late Swedish writer, Astrid Lindgren, wrote six Pippi Longstocking books between 1945 and 1969 (or Pippi Långstrump as she's known in the author's homeland). Sofie will deliver sections from four of them via what she calls 'theatrical storytelling', and – in a move Lindgren would surely approve of – she'll be encouraging audience members to share their own thoughts and opinions. 'I come in and out of playing different characters from the books,' explains Sofie. 'But I'm myself as a storyteller throughout the show. There are quite a lot of moments where I invite the audience to get involved; for example there's a bit where Pippi says she's been everywhere in the world, and I ask the audience if they could visit anywhere in the world, where would they go?'
Almost 80 years after Lindgren first brought the stripy sock-wearing girl into the world, Pippi is still going strong. The books have been translated and read all over the world, plus a TV series and several films were also made. To what does Sofie attribute Pippi's appeal? 'Astrid Lindgren was very political, and all of the things she put into Pippi still continue now: being a rebel, not listening to authority figures, not letting other people push you around. The stories have such a big message about bullies and standing up for yourself. But there's also a very playful side to Pippi; she's completely fearless and unapologetically herself. She changes people around her, but not by trying to; just by being who she is.'
As for Sofie, she's being pretty fearless, too. 'It's scary stepping into my mum's shoes, but she's telling everyone that she only has one worry: that I'll be better than her, which is nice.' Given that it was Sofie's dog that bowled her mum over, you have to wonder whether there might be some foul play at work … 'Yeah,' she laughs, 'it was all planned. I've been training my dog to take her out.'
Meet Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking, Pleasance Courtyard, until Sunday 29 August (not Monday 23 & Tuesday 24), 11.15am, £8.50–£75 (£7.50–£69).