Wojtek the Bear (3 stars)

Fascinating real-life bear drama is worth a look

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This article is from 2012.

Wojtek The Bear

Photograph courtesy of the Polish Institute

There’s no denying that the true story of Wojtek ‘the soldier bear’ is fascinating. Sold to the Polish army stationed in Iran in 1942, he was officially drafted into the 22nd Artillery Supply Company and transported ammo during the battle of Monte Cassino, becoming a symbol of the Polish fighting spirit. After demobilisation he ended up in Berwickshire before ending his days in Edinburgh Zoo.

Theatre Objecktiv’s adaptation of this intriguing story has moments of magic but is not without its problems. The opening 15 minutes feels muddled but it soon settles into its stride. James Sutherland really inhabits the role of Wojtek, viewing the atrocities around him with child-like innocence. John McColl is similarly excellent as Piotr Prendys, the soldier who took care of Wojtek, while the live score, from Sue Muir on violin, adds a poignant undercurrent to the action. The literal elements of the adaptation are far more engaging, but otherwise some of the staging is confusing. It’s hard to discern exactly what Wojtek’s role was at Monte Cassino, for example. However, the themes of love, friendship and loyalty still make this worth a look.

Hill Street Theatre, 226 6522, until 26 Aug, 4.30pm, £11–£12 (£9–£10).

This article is from 2012.

Wojtek the Bear

The extraordinary story of the loveable Polish soldier bear who fought at Monte Cassino and died in Edinburgh Zoo.

St Andrew Blackadder Church, North Berwick

Wed 6 Aug

£11 / 01620 895233

Part of Fringe by the Sea.

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