An audience without Emu ends in tears

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The Independent Online

THEY HAD come to see the premiere of the successors to Rod Hull and his puppet Emu. Dozens of families with excited children queued outside the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill, Surrey.

THEY HAD come to see the premiere of the successors to Rod Hull and his puppet Emu. Dozens of families with excited children queued outside the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill, Surrey.

But those present quickly knew something was not quite right. Uneasy murmurs from the audience turned first to bewildered protests and then angry heckling with things being thrown at the stage. Scuffles broke out, children began to cry, and there were threats of legal action as the crowd was escorted out.

The posters had been promoting "An Audience with David Elliott and the New EMU". It was not, however, the expected slapstick with a large irascible puppet bird, but a lecture on the intricacies of the Elevator Music Updater, or EMU, a device intended to let people choose their own sounds in lifts ­ the brainchild of one David Elliott.

The organisers, the Surrey Inventors Club, had initially been pleasantly surprised by a far larger turn-out than usual at the free event. "But they began to look puzzled when David started his talk," said Andrew Goff, one of the officials. "When he stopped and asked if there were any questions, one of them shouted 'Oi, where's bird?' Then there were rude comments about glove puppets, and then they started throwing things. It was terrible, I think some of them had been drinking."

The posters had been the work of a local public relations company, Caulhanes, and Mr Goff acknowledged that they could have been confusing. "I can see why people got it wrong, it is not their fault," he said. "I suppose [the posters] they were meant to be clever, but it rather misfired. We are sorry about the confusion."

This did not mollify Sue Jordan, who had gone to the theatre with her family. "It's a bit of a cheek, misleading people like that. We had taken my mother, who is 68 and a bit deaf. She just kept asking loudly what was going on, she thought she was missing out. Then all the trouble started and my little girl Katie burst into tears. She was very disappointed not to see Emu," she said.

This is not the first time the Surrey inventors have made the news in an unexpected fashion. A device called the Gaydar ­a pager worn by gay men which vibrated when other gay men were in the vicinity ­ attracted not other homosexuals, but amorous squirrels and badgers.

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