Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

Eclectic mix of theatre and music depicts love across borders

By Samuel Barson 

Through the growing anti-Semitism of the early 20th century, millions of Jews began to flee their homes for the West. Although the United States received the overwhelming majority of these immigrants, Canada was also a regular destination of choice for those Jewish communities seeking a safer, better life for their families.

In Hannah Moscovitch’s Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, this devastating fragment of Jewish history is told through the voices of Chaya (played admirably by Mary Fay Coady) and Chaim (played with undeniable warmth by Dani Oore). The two arrive in Halifax, each escaping their own respective horrors in Romania. With the help of the wonderful Ben Caplan in his narrator role of the Wanderer, audiences are given a heartbreaking yet rewarding insight into what this period of history meant for Jewish people then, and more importantly what it means for people today.

Director Christian Barry must be hugely congratulated. The way Barry curates the humour, the romance, the devastation and everything in between brings Moscovitch’s already exceptional script to new heights. And the fact he was also wearing the lighting and set design hats in this production is additionally admirable – these design elements unequivocally enhanced the cultural and historical contexts the playwright was attempting to display.

It must also be said that Barry was blessed with three incredible actors to bring his ideas and Moscovitch’s words to life. Coady and Oore bounced wonderfully off each other, as well as personally finding the perfect moments to present their characters’ lightness and darkness. Ben Caplan’s role as the Wanderer is one of the greatest, tour-de-force performances I have ever seen on a Melbourne stage. With superb comedic timing and the singing chops to match, this show is worth going to even just to see him.

Special mentions must also be made to Graham Scott and Jamie Kronick who helped elevate the performance with their various musical contributions.

A cleverly eclectic mix of monologue, vocals, instrumental pieces and dialogue, Old Stock has truly set the bar for Melbourne theatre in 2019.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is being performed at Arts Centre Melbourne until 2 February. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: Fadi Acra