@ Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, until Mon 31 Aug 2015 @ 19:00

Poetic, melodious, and brutally despairing, Theatre Objektiv’s Wojtek the Bear—brilliantly written by Raymond Raszkowski Ross—is a compelling tale of friendship, war, and the unbreakable bond between animal and man, soldier and warrior bear.

When James Sutherland slithers onto stage, it doesn’t take the audience long to immerse themselves in this fascinating metamorphosis from human being to mammal, allowing the arrival of Lance Corporal Piotr to be met with a plethora of spectators already spellbound, transfixed in a sort of seizure—waiting and wondering.

The actors move about the stage with alacrity; dancing, wrestling, and perambulating—movements and scene-changes perfectly supplemented by the diverse stroking of a bow. At times conjoined, the music and writing sit perfectly together, augmenting the desired effect of war, tragedy and innumerable deaths.

As the play progresses, the tightening of this incongruous relationship is masked by a constant feeling of foreboding, injustice and inevitability—so much so, that you find yourself almost telepathically reaching onto stage, beseeching with the soldier to come to his senses, and realise the two life forms are not compatible, not long-term, and will never prevail against the odds. Sadly for Piotr, he’s left to choose between conscience and loyalty, heart and head. In the end, he chooses what’s best for Wojtek.

A gripping, touching, and perfectly constructed production, this claw-induced, grizzly war extravaganza, is one trip down the Royal Mile you shouldn’t miss out on.