Orville finally takes flight

Remember the little green bird? And his plaintive little song about his flightless state? Well, at last Keith Harris's feathery friend gets his wish

While Orville the duck is named after one of the world's most distinguished aviators, he has, famously, never been able to fly. Until now.

Ventriloquist Keith Harris's green sidekick, who reached number four in the charts in 1983 singing about his inability to fly, will take to the air for the first time later this year.

In Orville's Song, which sold more than 400,000 copies, the nappy-wearing character sang, "I wish I could fly, way up to the sky, but I can't". But this Christmas, audiences at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth will see him flapping his wings above the stalls.

"It's very exciting," said Orville, who has been practising by jumping off his bed. "I've got lots of clean nappies just in case because it is very frightening, you know. I have never flown before."

Named after the American aviator Orville Wright, who, with his brother, Wilbur, made the first manned powered flight in 1903, the falsetto-voiced puppet found fame on television in the 1980s when he appeared on The Keith Harris Show on the BBC.

Harris chose the name Orville as a joke because the duck could not fly. Yet in December, Orville will take flight for the first time thanks to a wave of the Fairy Godmother's magic wand.

"There are no wires or anything like that," said Mr Harris, 63, who will star as Buttons in Cinderella. "I've worked with two illusionists called The Twins and we've come up with a device that can make him leave my hands, fly right across the audience, spin round and fly up and down. He will be scared, but it will be such a magical moment, won't it?"

Mr Harris said the closest Orville had previously come to flying was when he travelled down a zip wire while performing in Scarborough in the 1980s. The duck was stretchered out on one occasion after the wire broke and he landed in an aisle in the middle of the auditorium.

The puppet was also launched into the air when sitting on a bench with Mr Harris as part of a TV advertisement for Surf in 2004. He landed in a vat of soup.

Jonathan Kiley, the executive producer of Cinderella, said Orville would have only a couple of days to learn to fly in the theatre before the show opens on 16 December.

"It was Keith's idea," he said. "I think he's been thinking about it for years and never ever done it.

"There's no better place to do it than the Theatre Royal Plymouth because it's a great theatre to work in."