THIS WEEK IN 1999: Penguins p-p-picked for waddle-on part

Andy Henry, the taxidermist from Cosham, auditions his penguins for The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Andy Henry, the taxidermist from Cosham, auditions his penguins for The Man Who Came to Dinner.
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The production team at Chichester Festival Theatre were at a loss when they needed a penguin for their show The Man Who Came To Dinner.

They’d auditioned birds for a past production of Treasure Island and dogs for their forthcoming show The Land Of Oz. 

But finding a penguin was a tougher task. They realised that using a live bird was out of the question and that the fee demanded by the BBC’s star penguin performer Pingu would be too high.

So they turned to former health worker Andy Henry, of Cosham, whose business Caught In Time dealt in historical taxidermy. 

What the theatre people didn’t know when they contacted him was that penguins were Andy’s speciality as he had four at his home in Cosham. 

Andy said: ‘Because penguins are a protected species, they’re very hard to come by nowadays but I have four very old stuffed ones at home, including one with a label which reads that it was made in 1907.’

‘I can’t reveal exactly why we need a penguin but I can say that four of them play a very important part in the production,’ said press officer Vicky Edwards. 

Andy was used to unusual requests, such as a woman who wanted an ostrich. But the strangest came from a man who wanted his left arm preserved. 

‘He was having it removed for medical reasons,’ said Andy, ‘it would have cost him £4,000 and that put him off.’