THEATRE: 01 MAY 2016


Blonde Poison, by Gail Louw | Directed by Jennifer Hagan

Strange Duck Productions | The Studio, Sydney Opera House (http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com) | Until 12 May

The one-man/woman show traditionally follows a hero/anti-hero through the stories that they choose to tell.  Using the monologue we are given the back story of whatever events in the past have brought our central character to this particular place and time.

Recently on Sydney stages there have been many reworkings of this basic concept which have successfully updated this format.

Blonde Poison, however, follows a very conservative pathway — one room, a reflection of the past via a mirror, a photograph, etc. All this suggests the show has been around for a while, and it has.

Starting life at the 2012 Brighton Festival, it won the Argus Angel Award, and since then it played extensively in England and America and in 2015 at the Old Fitzroy in Sydney.

It is based on the true story of Stella Goldschlag, who, as the play begins, is waiting for a friend from her childhood, who is also a journalist, to arrive. Stella is in her 80s, but as she brags, could pass for 50 in the right light.

While she waits, she reminiscences on her past and her efforts to evade the Gestapo during World War II. Unsuccessfully, as it turns out, and she is threatened and tortured by the Gestapo, eventually becoming a Nazi collaborator.

Belinda Giblin physically fits the role perfectly and her performance is remarkable for her stamina, skill and technical prowess, resulting in a mostly mesmerising performance.

But Gail Louw’s script, although inspirational in parts, ultimately becomes convoluted, so we feel as if we are covering the same ground. Granted, the repetition increases Stella’s sense of isolation, but a dramatic clipping of this 90-minute show would deliver the dramatic effect far more powerfully.

Stella’s present is also an interesting perspective, a meditation on the slowness of time when one is isolated and alone, and Jennifer Hagan’s objective direction does take us to a place where the past and present are intensely synchronised. This is always a place of acute drama and her expert direction ensures the performance rarely drifts into melodrama.

Drawing on verbatim theatre, the monologue is mostly derived from responses obtained from Peter Wyden’s interview, with the real Stella Goldschlag, a reminder to us all that our lives and experiences can be fodder for drama.

It is certainly worth a look, if only to observe the presence and craft that allows one woman to hold an audience’s attention for 90 uninterrupted minutes.

Belinda Gibson in Blonde Poison ... physically fits the role perfectly.