Wojtek the Bear @ Hill Street Theatre

Review by Stephanie Green | 10 Aug 2012
  • Wojtek the Bear

A tour de force, based on the true story of the friendship between the Polish Soldier Bear, and his 'mama' Piotr, a Lance Corporal during WWII. Carrying shells at the battle of Monte Cassino, the bear became a symbol of Freedom to the Free Polish ending his days in Edinburgh Zoo in 1963. This heart-rending tale, written by Raymond Raszkowski Ross, is superbly performed. The set is a drum-like disc over which the bear first appears snuffling the air.

James Sutherland wears no mask or costume and yet from the first minute, we are convinced he is a bear. His expressive face, wavering fingers like talons, a lumbering walk and grunts when he coories up to his 'mama' are all he needs to convince us. He loves to dance to the Scottish fiddle, expertly played by by Sue Muir, who also provides an atmospheric soundtrack. John McColl contrasts well as Piotr with his soldier's upright bearing. The play is a duet of voices as they reminisce about the camaraderie of a soldier's life, followed by the horrors of WWII, and post-war hero's welcome turning sour with 'Go Home Polack' taunts. A rollercoaster of emotions, this play is bound to move you.

Hill Street Theatre, 19, Hill Street, EH2 3JP Venue 41 2-26 Aug at 4.30pm (except 14) (I hour 15 mins) Box Office: 0131 226 6522 www.universalartsfestival.com http://www.theatreobjectiv.co.uk