Review: Wojtek

Wojtek with 'Gavin Paul as Poitr, Back - James Sutherland as Wojtek
Wojtek with 'Gavin Paul as Poitr, Back - James Sutherland as Wojtek
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TRUTH, they say, is stranger than fiction. And none more so than in the case of Wojtek.

* * *

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Royal Mile

An enlisted Polish war hero, the loveable, fag-smoking, vodka-swilling brown bear fought at Monte Cassino and was an integral part of the community in Berwickshire before moving to Edinburgh Zoo.

It’s a wonder then, that this abstract depiction of Wojtek’s relationship with ‘Mama’ (Polish Lance Corporal, Piotr) wasn’t entitled Gentle Ben Fights The Nazis.

What’s also surprising is that there’s no man in a bear suit, either. Played by James Sutherland, the actor deserves an award for convincing everyone that this regular looking guy is a giant grizzly.

Indeed, by the time Wojtek and Mama (Gavin Paul) become fully aware of the consequences following the end of WW2, you’ll be reaching for the Kleenex.

Set on a circular stage adorned with Wojtek’s iconic carrying-the-ammunition-shell emblem, there’s a randomness to the play’s structure, however, that doesn’t always flow smoothly.

There’s a series of false endings, too and when Sue Muir starts scratching her fiddle to emphasise low mood, it can be difficult to concentrate.

Otherwise, it’s bearable.

Until 31 August