Kings Hall has been taken over by Summer Hall and transformed into the Canada Hub over the festival, showcasing a series of Canadian acts exploring the issues surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration.
Showing lessons of compassion and empathy this is an important play executed with breath-taking brilliance.
The power in this work comes from its inherent truthfulness. The story is based on the writer, Hannah Moscovitch’s great-grandparents. This truthfulness is also at times what makes the production heart-breaking as we discover the reasons why the characters have to flee and the hardships they face. Music is a key feature in the storytelling, using bold jazzy Yiddish music. All the performer sing and play instruments throughout. But these weren’t just actors who happen to be able to play an instrument, these are legitimately brilliant musicians in your own right. If you only see one ruckus clarinet solo this fringe make it this one. If you see two… let me know where you saw the second.
This musical onslaught is led by award winning singer/songwriter Ben Caplan who also composed the majority of songs for the show. He acts as a powerful narrator to the tale, sinister yet endlessly likable. He speaking voice alone is worth hearing but when he sings it is absolutely enthralling. With a cheeky wink and a tone of foreboding he opens the shipping container that the cast are waiting in letting their story spill out. Then when it’s over he closes it back up ready for them to be shipped to the next performance. However to say that his performance was stand-out in the show is a disservice to the other lead performers Mary Fay Coady and Chris Weatherstone who much like the writing itself draws the perfect balance between gut wrenching emotion and humour. Their relationship which the story centres around is tender and beautiful to watch develop.
When dealing with such a heavy topic sometimes a show can get weighed down by this. Old Stock avoids this, through music and humour without losing any reverence to the importance of the story it is telling. Most importantly in the end there is hope. With such a relevant story to both contemporary Canada and UK in light of the current refugee crisis, this hope is not simple nice. Its essential. Showing lessons of compassion and empathy this is an important play executed with breath-taking brilliance.