Branagh Storms West End Despite 'Fowl' Play

Yahoo UK News, 21 October 2005
By Matt Wolf

Kenneth Branagh's latest West End production has opened to rave reviews despite the abduction of one of its lead performers. The renowned thesp bravely decided the show must go on after one of his most important players, a duck called Daphne, was spirited away from her dressing room.

The Shakespearean performer has directed "Ducktastic!", a new comedy which tells the story of two hopeless magicians who try to make their fortune by mimicking Siegfried and Roy's legendary Las Vegas show, with ducks replacing the tigers.

Everything looked set for a glitzy opening-night until the play's star was seized at the eleventh hour. And given that Daphne's role was a rather complex one, by bird standards at least, preparing a competent understudy was no easy task.

"The cost of training animals is phenomenal and Daphne was the star of the show," explained producer David Pugh. "It opens with her walking down a flight of stairs and taking a bow. We have a duck to cover for her but it is a lot of training."

Numerous theories have been circulating about who might have taken flight with the performer. While some theatre fans suspected animal rights activists of being to blame, others suggested the disappearance was an inside job staged to raise publicity. "We have had concerns about animal rights groups but it could also just have been a prank," explained David, before adding: "It is also freshers' week."

The indefatigable Mr Branagh was left with no other option but to ask Sabre, another rather elegant "Indian runner" duck, to waddle into Daphne's role. And with a little help from animal trainer Dave Souza, who coached the squirrels for Johnny Depp's hit "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory", the web-footed creature took the challenge in its three-inch stride.

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