Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

The List / David Kettle

Klezmer cabaret-style musical tale with a mesmerising frontman

A grimy shipping container magically opens to reveal a four-piece klezmer band in Halifax-based 2b Theatre’s high-concept, entertaining show, which deals with one of today’s most urgent issues: migration. The refugees here, however, are Jews fleeing Romanian pogroms for a new life in Canada more than a century ago, based on the family ancestors of the show’s writer, Hannah Moscovitch. Contemporary parallels – humiliating entry checks, contempt and worse from residents – are clear, though never over-egged.

The show’s magnetic focus is Canadian singer-songwriter Ben Caplan, who growls, shrieks and croons his way through the show’s succession of storytelling songs as a sinister, all-knowing MC / ringmaster / narrator. He’s a mesmerising figure and he’s joined by Mary Fay Coady and Chris Weatherstone, very fine as young lovers Chaya and Chaim, whose rocky relationship forms the show’s backbone.

There’s a lot of grit and passion in this cabaret-style creation, and Old Stock raises questions about our age-old mistrust of outsiders. But there’s a problem with structure, too: the show gradually winds down from its opening energy and biting humour, becoming bleaker, slower and more introspective until it’s hard to see how any of its problems can be resolved. If it doesn’t quite live up to its opening promise, it’s a thrilling, enlightening ride nonetheless.