People and personalities are complex, and as we go through life and the experiences that life sends our way, we go through varying levels of confidence, we experience joy, love, anger, frustration, sorrow and hurt. These experiences and emotions change us and we are molded by them. One person that experienced all of these, in the most extreme of circumstances was German-Jew Stella Goldschlag, who has been the subject of a number of books as a result of her infamy during and after World War II in which she became a Greiferin (catcher) for the Gestapo, hunting down and betraying Jews hiding in Berlin. This work and her Aryan looks earned her the nickname “Blonde Poison”.
On stage at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square, actress Fiona Ramsay portrays Stella Goldschlag as a 70 year old woman, still mesmerised by her own blonde beauty, recalling her life story, and transforms into the young Stella Goldschlag as she tells her tale. The play is progressed by questions she imagines that she will be asked by a journalist, a former childhood friend who fled to America before the war began, as well as a female voice who keeps asking “How can you live with yourself?”.
Blonde Poison tells the story of Stella Goldschlag and how she avoided detection as Jewish by her Aryan looks and falsified documents, her lovers and husbands, smitten by her blonde beauty, a couple of close encounters with the Gestapo, her ultimate capture and becoming a catcher to save herself and her parents. The story sounds like one we all know from countless books and films set in World War II, but this one asks questions in a way I have not encountered.
This work, compared by some in the audience on opening night to Sophie’s Choice, shows the audience how hard it really is to judge someone’s choices without actually walking in their shoes, and that choices made might haunt a person forever. Choices that can ruin lives, friendships and relationships.
This production which runs at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square until 4 February sees the formidable team of Fiona Ramsay and Janna Ramos-Violante return with this work by Gail Louw. The last pairing of Ramsay and Ramos-Violante on a Gail Louw play, Miss Dietrich Regrets, resulted in a Best Actress Naledi Award for Fiona Ramsay. The acting in this production by Fiona Ramsay is remarkable, Ramsay being a master of accents ensures that the accent is believable and not distracting. Under the direction of Ramos-Violante, Ramsay portrays Stella Goldschlag in both her 20s and 70s, as a confident beautiful blonde – blue eyed young woman, a terrified Jew in hiding, a prisoner and as a heartless Gestapo greiferin.
Blonde Poison is both well written, and flawlessly presented, a simple set design with even simpler lighting that is just enough to set the scenes without overwhelming or detracting from the story. Fiona Ramsay once again delivers a spot on performance, under the direction of Janna Ramos-Violante. I highly recommend catching this show before it ends on the 4th of February.