Five enormous, glittering stars to Fiona Ramsay who portrays the tortured Stella Goldschlag, reminiscing about her shadowy past in war-torn Berlin.
Stella seems to have lived a rather comfortable post-war life, so what is it that has brought all these dark memories into the light. Apparently a phone call from a long forgotten admirer: a little boy in the snow, who she mockingly remembers, shyly telling her in his cracked voice “I love you Stella.” The awkward child of the past is now a respected journalist, wanting to hear her story of survival.
We think we’ve heard it all, don’t we, those Holocaust stories, strength of spirit, desperation, inspiration found in the deepest, darkest depths of evil and despair. But Stella’s story is one very seldom brought to light. We hear her description of what it was like to live as a ‘U-Boat’ – an illegal, under-the-radar Jewish citizen; her refusal to back down from her arrogant assumption that beauty will excuse her every fault, even that of being a Jew.
Eventually, inevitably, though, Stella’s luck runs out. Being an Aryan-looking blonde can only get you so far, and then those efficient Nazi lists did tend to catch up with you. And she quickly learns that jealousy and betrayal come to all beautiful girls. But when she’s offered an alternative to the death camps, for both her parents and herself, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to save their lives. So she becomes a “greifer”, a “catcher” for the Gestapo. After all, she says, she knows where all the Jews can be found, where they gather, where they live, who better for the job?
But now, in the present, the echoes of the past are catching up with her, she’s plagued by whispers of yesteryear, asking “How can you live with yourself?” as she begs us to consider: “What would you have done?”
Ramsay presents a chilling portrayal of a ruthless, cold-hearted traitor … or does she? In more light-hearted moments one can almost wonder. Perhaps she was less a traitor, and just another casualty of war, doing all she could to survive? The audience must come to terms with the horrific realisation of what moral code was in play at the time, if any. The riveting scene unfolding onstage keeps one so absolutely enthralled that there’s barely time to even comprehend the stark reality of what Stella needed to confront, both in her past and her present.
Gail Louw’s Blonde Poison is a multi-faceted, mesmerising piece; one that will leave audiences with much to consider for quite some time after they’ve left the theatre. Director Janna Ramos-Violante has done a sterling job, ensuring that the depths do not plummet too low for too long, nor do the lighter moments allow audiences to lose focus. Ramsay’s movement through the simple, but functional set flows easily, and one is never left guessing as to her intent.
Blonde Poison will run at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square from 10th January – 4th February 2017. There will be 6 performances per week – Tuesdays to Fridays at 8.15pm and two shows on Saturdays at 6pm and 8.15pm. Enquire about dinner show specials and group discounts. Call the theatre on 011 883-8606 or book online: www.computicket.com or tel. the call centre: 0861 915 8000