It’s fitting the folks at the Belfry Theatre have chosen to bring Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story back to the stage in Victoria. The show, which played for only a week in 2019 as part of the SPARK Festival, garnered rave reviews and was a natural choice to bring back to a Victoria stage.
Director Christian Barry said this musical is a labour of love with deep personal meaning for himself and his co-creators, Ben Caplan and Hannah Moscovitch.
“The show was created when the Syrian refugee crisis was gripping the world and Ben and I were talking about how we could put a human face on the refugee experience. At the time, politicians weren’t talking about the human experience. It was all this heartless conversation about quotas and money – about protecting Canada’s ‘old stock,’” Barry said.
The answer and inspiration for Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story came during a visit to Pier 21 in Halifax.
“Hanna went looking for the immigration records for her great-grandparents – they had arrived separately at Pier 21 as Jewish refugees fleeing the pogroms in Romania at the beginning of the 20th century. She found a record and we thought about how her great-grandparents met right at that spot, on Pier 21. Suddenly, we had our story.”
The production, Barry said, does not try to resolve the plight of refugees but rather shines a light on the challenges facing new Canadians.
“The hopes, fears, and loves of refugees hasn’t changed and it’s so powerful to be able to tell the story through the experiences of Hanna’s great-grandparents,” Barry said. “The Syrian crisis was motivating us, but the question was how we could tell that story. It wasn’t our story to tell. This was, and it was still relevant.”
Beyond its relevance, the show is enormously entertaining. It’s a darkly funny and moving examination of love – a high-energy concert led by the immensely talented international Klezmer sensation, Ben Caplan.
The show, which has now been performed some 400 times, has played across Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. When it played in New York, it was nominated for six off-Broadway awards.
“This is a joyful experience with humour, romance … there’s something that addresses the whole of humanity. It’s a party in a box that tells a serious story,” Barry said.
The show will run from April 18 to May 14, and tickets are available at belfry.bc.ca.
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