Tag Archives: Ben Caplan

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story


Wilton’s Music Hall

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 19th September 2019


“full of joyous music, inspired storytelling, ribald humour, and yes, plenty to think about regarding the fragility of life”


Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story by Hannah Moscovitch comes to Wilton’s Music Hall by way of the 2b Theatre Company based in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is, as one might expect from the title, a story of emigration. The word “refugee” gives notice that this is not about voluntary emigration. As the story of Chaya and Chaim unfolds, we are introduced to a relationship between two people forged out of the tragedy of pogroms and marginalised lives in Europe, and to the challenges that beset them as they struggle to forge a life together in the New World. Old Stock reveals a tale of people poor in material belongings, but rich in culture, even if problems of letting go of the past keep them on the brink of tragedy in a new, and not always welcoming environment. If this sounds like a show full of unrelieved sadness, it is not. Old Stock is also full of joyous music, inspired storytelling, ribald humour, and yes, plenty to think about regarding the fragility of life. It is eighty minutes full of vivid contrasts held together by the glorious singing and acting of Ben Caplan, who, as the Wanderer, serves as commentator and master of ceremonies.

Wilton’s Music Hall is also the perfect venue. The proscenium arch works well as a frame for a stage empty of everything but a modern red shipping container which unfolds to reveal the treasures inside as soon as the show begins. The set design is by Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry (who also directs), and it’s a clever metaphor for the entire show, for what expresses travel across a vast sea holding the belongings of people on the move better? And what expresses the cultural riches of refugees better than the gifted group of musicians and storytellers that the audience discovers inside? 2b Theatre Company has assembled an extraordinarily versatile group of performers. Mary Fay Coady as Chaya is an accomplished musician on the violin, as is Eric Da Costa as Chaim, on woodwinds. Both actors are charmingly convincing as the young couple. If the character of Chaya seems a bit stereotypical from time to time, Coady imbues her with enough complexity to make a good foil for her ardent lover. Da Costa delights as Chaim, who is not only persistent in his suit for Chaya’s hand, but is also quite willing to share her with her dead first husband, who maintains a relentless grip on the memories and heart of his widow. Other members of this accomplished band include Kelsey McNulty on keyboards and accordion, and Jeff Kingsbury on drums.

But, as mentioned before, Ben Caplan is the performer who holds this feast of riches together. Caplan is already well known as a folk singer/songwriter in and outside his native Canada, but in Old Stock, he shows off his early theatrical training to great effect. Moving effortlessly from master of ceremonies at a music hall to the cantor’s solemnity at a traditional Jewish wedding, his voice moves the audience from laughter to hushed celebration without missing a beat. Playwright Moscovitch is also to be congratulated on writing a script – a very personal script, since this is the story of her great-grandparents – that gives this talented company so much to work with. Do take the opportunity to see this wonderful show.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Stoo Metz


Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

Wilton’s Music Hall until 28th September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019


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Review of The Knowledge – 5 Stars


The Knowledge

Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 11th September 2017





“strikingly well observed, with a constant stream of laugh out loud moments” 



Well it was a miracle I got to the Charing Cross Theatre, I live in that part of South East London & North Kent that Network Rail seems to have declared war on. Trains no longer stop at London Bridge and rarely arrive at Charing Cross at all, and this evening they decided in their wisdom to cancel my train with 5 minutes notice … So a reroute via Cannon Street and tube meant I arrived just in time for curtain up. Seated behind Maureen Lipman, whose late husband Jack Rosenthal wrote the original 1979 comedy as a TV film, I tried to calm my heavy breathing and seem as unflustered as possible as the lights dimmed!

The play focuses on three men hoping to become London black cab drivers. It follows them as they take exam after exam on street names, routes, and obscure places within the capital. This process of training is ‘The Knowledge’.

We witness the would-be cabbies progressive attempts to gain their green badge and create better opportunities for themselves and their families. Through their interactions we learn more about the people on the course and what it means to each of them to gain ‘The Knowledge’. Their home lives and varied backgrounds are slowly revealed as the stress and pressure to achieve takes its toll.

The budding taxi drivers (James Alexandrou, Ben Caplan, Fabien Frankel & Louise Callaghan) are all less daunted by learning 15,000 road names than they are by their examiner, the slightly crazed Mr Burgess, aka ‘The Vampire’ (portrayed in a wonderfully comic performance by Steven Pacey). Each of the cast were outstanding and held the audience’s attention throughout, delivering exactly the right amount of giggles and raw emotion. The supporting artists come and go adding dimension to the experience and creating memorable cameos as well as giving further insight into the background story of each wannabe driver.

The script, by Simon Block, has been expertly adapted, accentuating the original humour of Rosenthal while altering some aspects of late 1970s culture for 21st century appreciation. It is strikingly well observed (enhanced even moreso by Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s clever set) with a constant stream of laugh out loud moments and a great nostalgic soundtrack at interval!

The play moves seamlessly along keeping you wondering exactly what will happen next. You wouldn’t put money on who will gain The Knowledge in the end! A great comic evening out. Hail it while you can!



Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Scott Rylander




is at The Charing Cross Theatre until 11th November



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