Wojtek The Bear

Raymond Raszkowski Ross

Theatre Objektiv

Hill Street Theatre

From 02 August 2012 to 25 August 2012

Rating: *****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Theatre Objektiv is well known for their intensity of feeling with its subject matter. Taking a departure from last years bleak but hopeful piece on the Holocaust, this year Raymond Ross has penned a play around the life of Wotjek, a Russian brown bear tamed by the Polish Army and eventually gifted to Edinburgh Zoo.

We are led through the past of Wotjek in the form of a dream where his dying former master, Piotr, played by John McColl is searching through the wastelands of his memory, seeking forgiveness from the bear that thought him 'Mama'.

The piece is revelatory, beginning in darkness with the both visual and physical dualities of McColl's Piotr and James Sutherland's Wotjek. Sutherland, despite his simple and unobtrusive brown clothing, imbues his embodiment of the bear and the more illusory phantom aspects with a confidence and contained power. From his roaring baritone voice, boundless energy to the playfighting and hooting of a bear cub, he utterly dispels the conceit of a man portraying an animal.

Comparatively, McColl's work is more subtle, the meek and practical yet idealistic Lance Corporal, trying to cling to the bear who is the only link he has to home. In addition, the entire piece is scored live by the fine violin work of Sue Muir, whose contribution enhances the scenes and adds an element of bleak ethereality, rounding off the production perfectly.