Former soapie star Belinda Giblin stars in Gail Louw's one-woman drama of survival and betrayal in Nazi Berlin, based on a true story
Having premiered at the Old Fitz Theatre in July 2015, this production is up-sizing to the Studio Sydney Opera House for a brief return season. Read our 3-star review of the original production below.
Stella Goldschlag, a blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful German Jew, is a perhaps surprisingly little-known historical figure. The subject of the memoir Stella by Peter Wyden, she escaped the horrific concentration camps of the World War II by concealing her Jewish heritage until her identity caught up with her; but even then she used her looks to her advantage, becoming a ‘Greifer’ – finding Jews in hiding and sending them to the fate she had managed to avoid.
In this production of Gail Louw's one-woman 2012 play Blonde Poison, Belinda Giblin (best known for playing 'Pat the Rat' in ’80s soapie Sons and Daughters) is Stella, nervously awaiting a visit from her prospective memoirist, Peter Wyden. She is defensive, arrogant, cold and introspective. She has turned down all kinds of requests for comment; she's lost touch with family and friends, who have shunned her. She is proud of what she has done to get by – or is she? We're never quite sure, and that's one of the greatest strengths of Louw's script.
In her small but well-kept living room, Stella paces, checks herself in a mirror, frets about when to put on the coffee. She talks, seemingly, to calm herself, to sort out her thoughts before Wyden arrives to interview her for his book. Giblin has a professorial stiffness about her on stage but it works fairly well in this piece, as Stella doesn’t seem to remember how to let her guard down anymore, even in her own home.
Jennifer Hagan (Love Child; The Shoe-Horn Sonata) directs this straightforward production and its all-business, all-reality presentation is generally effective, except for when it veers into the over-literal (like the ticking sound effect every time Stella looks at her watch). The play meanders and drifts into repetition a few too many times, and the effect is not one of emphasis but rather one of stasis. A shorter run-time would probably help the horror and complexity of Goldschlag’s story achieve greater impact.
Blonde Poison engages the audience in a thoughtful combat: what would you do to save yourself, and your family, in the most nightmarish situations? And when it stays on this path and stares us down, with Giblin’s challenging steel-and-fire gaze, it’s an exciting piece of theatre.
It’s when the script and Hagan’s steady hand lags, when the production retreats from confrontation, that it starts to feel long, and awkward. Fortunately these moments are for the most part fleeting, but they’re still there and tarnish the effect of the production. It starts to feel less like a runaway train car careening to its inevitable end and more like a safe, though bumpy, ride down a mountain road.
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