Blonde Poison

Theatre, Drama
Blonde Poison
Photograph: Marnya Rothe

Television star Belinda Giblin prepares to step into the shoes of a Jewish woman who collaborated with the Nazis to save herself and her family

No matter how many times we revisit the horrors of World War Two we never seem to scrape the bottom of its depravity. The story of Stella Goldschlag could be seen as just another example of the brutality of Nazi Germany; alternately, it could be read as the perfect distillation of a regime’s malignancy.

Stella was a young, beautiful Jewish woman who knowingly sent thousands of fellow Jews to their deaths in a faustian bargain to save herself and her family. "She knew how to survive," says Belinda Giblin, who plays her as a woman in her ’70s looking back on her deeds in Gail Louw’s play Blonde Poison.

"It’s incredibly sad. This normal... spoilt, yes... but beautiful young girl was told she’d be taken to Auschwitz if she didn’t collaborate." So collaborate she did, amassing such a tally of victims she became notorious even among the Gestapo. "The thing is, she got to like it. The privilege and the power."

Stella worked tirelessly, condemning friends and acquaintances with a flippancy that seems hard to countenance. Ostensibly, she was protecting her parents but “her parents were sent to Auschwitz anyway. She continued to do it; by then it was too late to stop. So, basically she was as guilty as hell.”

The aphorism that truth is the first casualty of war tends to suggest that peacetime can restore it, but so often the unspeakable actions taken during a conflict remain submerged for generations. Stella “went into hiding for the next 30 years. She got as far away from Berlin as she could. She hid and lived alone like a hermit.”

It is here that the play picks her up, waiting for the writer who will finally immortalise her, poised and ready for her grand confession. And according to Giblin, she’s an immensely entertaining host. "She’s got a wonderful, wry sense of humour. She’s incredibly proud of her sexual power, even at 71." Louw has written "a very layered character study."

Of course, Stella’s past proves impossible to shake. Giblin is adamant that modern parallels can be drawn. "We’ve got people in detention. We’ve got refugees who are stateless and homeless. We’ve yet to see the long-term psychological damage, I think, of all this incarceration."

Giblin has played her fair share of bitches, most notably in TV’s Sons and Daughters, but none with the nuance and resonance of Stella Goldschlag. 

By: Tim Byrne

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