Blonde Poison

There are very few occasions that you go to the theatre, see an amazing performance that leads you to forget that you are at a theatre and indeed that this is a performance! Blonde Poison managed to do just that.

Dealing with the experience of a ‘griefer’ or ‘catcher’ for the Gestapo, this production deals with a terrible subject. However, it is so masterfully performed you don’t realise how heavy and how profound the subject has been until you leave the theatre, become emotional and the subject keeps coming to your mind. This has to be down to the talent of the writer and performer.

In Blonde Poison, South African actress Fiona Ramsey delivers Gail Louw’s script in a way that leaves you thinking this story hasn’t been written but lived. Possibly because the staging and lighting is so sympathetic.

Fiona plays Stella Goldschlag. We meet Stella as she prepares to meet Paul, a “friend” from school. As she looks in the mirror, she sees a well-dressed woman. She might be 80 but in the right light (a dim light) she claims she could pass for 50. She’s certainly well kept. She’s well-dressed because her school “acquaintance” is now a journalist, and he wants to talk to her about the past. However, we soon realise she is haunted by her past, and probably with good cause. Will telling her story release her from her past? In the hour that she waits for her visitor to arrive we will see.

Stella can’t help sharing that she was always good looking. She presented well as a curly haired blonde. Her looks are untypical for a Jewish woman – and it’s true she loves them. She’s popular, especially with the men. From an early age she knew the ways of the world and how to use her assets to her advantage, especially when being a German Jew put her at risk with the rise of the Nazi’s.

In the Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret, there is a poignant number titled 'What would you do?'. Blonde Poison builds on this and poses the simple but stark question, "what would you do to survive?". Stella finds she can adapt quickly at first. She finds different ways to change, to blend in. When that doesn’t work she is forced by her tormentors and indeed by her family to do whatever is needed to avoid the death camps. Blonde Poison becomes her hateful nickname. Her decisions make her a woman to be avoided. Every decision she makes seems to leave her with no decisions at all. What would you do in her place? Did she have a choice? Finally, she makes a choice – but will anyone notice? I hope we as her audience will, but what would we do?

I leave the theatre convinced I have been listening to a true story – but knowing it was a scripted production. Thank you for making me think, whist being totally entertained.

Blonde Poison is being performed this week at the Playground Theatre, a former bus depot converted into a 100-seater theatre tucked away in West London’s Latimer Road/White City area. It’s amazing that such a work should be hidden away here. This is theatre at its best – you’re entertained whilst you are there and find it impossible to stop thinking about it once you’ve left! This limited run, of one week only, is a must see – see it if you can.

This show was reviewed on the 29th February 2024.  Blonde Poison runs at The Playground Theatre until the 3rd March 2024.  Tickets available here: BLONDE POISON | 27 FEB - 3 MAR Tuesday – Saturday | 7.30 PM Matinee Saturday | 2.30 PM Sunday | 4 PM - Theatre (theplaygroundtheatre.org.uk)

Review written by Paul Wood

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Photo credit: Fiona Macpherson

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