The feathered stars sharing top bill with Branagh in "The West End".

Essay by cheater85College, UndergraduateA, January 2006

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A FLOCK of stars is about to be born. Ducks will take to the "West End" stage in a play directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Ducktastic follows the antics of two under-achieving magicians who create a make-or-break routine inspired by Las Vegas conjurors Siegfried and Roy ... except they use ducks instead of tigers.

The magicians will be played by Hamish McColl and Sean Foley -- but it seems the 40-strong flock of birds steals the limelight.

"Those bloody ducks," said McColl. "It's impossible to compete for attention when they take centre-stage. And backstage they are treated extremely well... far, far better than we are."

The ducks, of a breed noted for their elegant, swanlike necks and upright posture, called Indian Runners, were hatched specially for the show by Dave Souza of trainers Birds and Animals UK.

He taught them their parts using a system of repetition and reward.

Mr Souza, who coached the squirrels that stole the show from Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's film Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, brings the ducks to the Albery Theatre every day from their home in Uxbridge.

Once their run in Ducktastic! has ended, they will retire there.

An animal rights organisation has raised concerns about the welfare of the ducks but the team behind Ducktastic! is confident the birds are enjoying the star treatment.

Branagh said: "They are extremely well looked after and that is very important for us. There is nothing that they want for and that is part of the spirit of the show.

"If our cast of ducks don't like doing something -- if it isn't like play to them -- then we just don't do it. And if they enjoy it, they have fun with it and they look forward to it. The ducks are doing what...