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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Sesame wannabes begin auditions
Elmo will feature in the NI version of Sesame Street
Wannabe Big Birds and Oscar the Grouches are auditioning for a Northern Ireland version of Sesame Street.

Sesame Tree will be broadcast on BBC NI next year, and the Jim Henson Company is currently hard at work in the US making new puppets for the show.

Rather than the gritty New York street setting of the original show, most action takes place in the titular tree.

Northern Ireland writers are developing two new characters to star alongside favourites like Bert, Ernie and Elmo.

The 15-minute shows will also feature aspects of rural and urban life in Northern Ireland.

Puppeteer Marty Robinson with muppet
Muppeteer Marty Robinson is auditioning Sesame Tree hopefuls
People trying for a shot at fame among the under-fives are already auditioning in Belfast, and the makers are looking for people who can act and sing to bring the puppets to life.

Northern Ireland production company Sixteen South is being assisted in its search by Sesame Street muppeteer Marty Robinson, whose alter-egos include Aloysius Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster and Slimey the Worm.

Executive Producer Colin Williams said the programmes "combine new muppets developed specially for our local audience, live action sequences filmed across Northern Ireland and classic Sesame Street moments".

He added: "Through the fun interaction of the muppets in studio, Sesame Street archive clips and live action films, local children will enjoy learning about themselves and others."
Sesame Street regulars
Sesame Street's famous faces include double act Bert and Ernie

International versions of Sesame Street are given their own muppets to reflect local issues.

In the Egyptian adaptation, girl muppet Khokha (Peach) wants to be an astronaut or a doctor and serves as a female role model.

The South African version of the popular children's TV series has an HIV-positive character called Kami to encourage acceptance of people living with the virus.

It is not yet clear what aspects of Northern Ireland society will be reflected by the two new muppets.

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