A LONG-RUNNING Hampshire am-dram group was almost forced to cancel a show for the first time after a key star – a chicken – was killed by a fox.

The Hamble Players – who have been performing for more than 60 years – lost the cast member with just weeks to go before opening night.

Luckily, a local chicken owner saw a desperate plea from the production company on social media and volunteered her own hen to star in the show.

And thanks to Helen Walker and her hen, Princess, the five-night run of The Last Talent Show will now go ahead next month.

The amateur dramatics company thought they would have to cancel their first performance in 64 years after the animal was killed.

One of the show’s writers, John Quinn, said: “It sounds crazy but the chicken is vital to the drama and the comedy of the show: she closes the first act and opens the second.”

Joint director Tim Hughes said: “When we couldn’t find a replacement bird we tried an imitation, mechanical hen, but it wasn’t right.

“We needed a chicken which was used to being handled, was clipped so she didn’t fly off, was beautiful and had a big personality.

“Luckily Princess has all these qualities by the bucketful!”

Cancelling the show would have been a disaster to the amateur company as they have already sold 400 tickets for the performances from April 9 to 13 at Hamble’s Memorial Hall.