Blonde Poison won an Argus Angel Award for artistic excellence at the Brighton Festival and Fringe 2012
Check out two full reviews, one by Judi Herman of the BBC here and from Duncan Hall of The Argus here
Camden Fringe 2013
"Louw’s brilliant script focuses on the personality of Stella (Goldschlag) as a whole. On the one hand there is the attempt at self-justification . . . on the other hand we are confronted with a woman who is still overwhelmingly preoccupied with her looks, her sexual conquests, her loneliness, and her own suffering."
"It’s a spell-binding, uncomfortable 90 minutes of entertainment. Uncomfortable in the best possible way."
"This is a fascinating performance of a well-written, intriguing play."
What’s On Stage
"Gail Louw has written, without doubt, one of the finest pieces of solo theatre ever to have been performed with her latest play, Blonde Poison."
"Overall this is a superb, thought-provoking, solo performance from an actress who is the most amazing storyteller."
Windsor Festival, Helen Lake, Manager
"I wanted to thank you for the performance of Gail Louw’s ‘Blonde Poison’ which featured as part of Windsor Festival . . .
I have been impressed by the reactions, both those with whom I spoke on the night and those since – everyone expressed how the performance captivated them . . . Elizabeth was astounding, but the material was also expertly crafted, as was the set, lighting and sound design. A perfect piece of theatre. I hope your tour continues to engage audiences throughout the country."
Aline Waites, remotegoat.com
This is a play that grabs your attention from the start and doesn’t let you go until the final curtain. It is a brilliant piece of work from writer Gail Louw . . . and a stunning performance from Elizabeth Counsell."
A "spellbinding story of hideous betrayal".
"Without question, Blonde Poison is the best piece of theatre I have seen at the Fringe this year, and quite possibly one of the most earth-shatteringly good performances I have ever seen from any actress."
"Stella is one of the most three-dimensional characters I have ever seen on the stage."
"This is an intensely intellectually stimulating piece of theatre which forces the audience to ask questions about humanity."
"I cannot recommend Blonde Poison enough."
The Surrey Advertiser
"The Mill Studio is ideal for productions requiring intimacy – and here were secrets whispered, paraded and callously
thrown to us bit by bit. There wasn’t a cough or movement from the audience, spellbound by Counsell’s delivery
and vocal control. Simpering, arrogant, assertive and crushed by guilt, Elizabeth Counsell delivers a story so
painful it made several around me gasp."
"Gail Louw’s brilliant script feels natural."
"Elizabeth Counsell’s bravura performance."
"It’s a stark gem – designed to both shock and linger."
"Powerful and thought provoking… incredible and intense… deeply shocking … an unforgettable evening."
The Eastbourne Herald
"a remarkable performance… spell blinding …. Holds the audience in thrall."
Sussex Jewish News
"This is a story that must be told … marvellously written and wonderfully performed."
Legendary actress Virginia McKenna OBE, gives a unique insight into BLONDE POISON
BAFTA Award winning actress Virginia McKenna OBE and star of films including; Born Free, A Town Like Alice and the acclaimed Carve Her Name With Pride, in which Virginia starred as a female Special Operations Executive who went behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France, attended a performance of Blonde Poison at Jermyn Street Theatre earlier this year.
Enamoured with the production, which stars Elizabeth Counsell and is directed by Tony Milner, Virginia is keen to share her passion for this fascinating piece of theatre as the show embarks on a national tour.
‘’For almost an hour and a half no one moved or coughed or fidgeted. I cannot recall ever having a similar experience as a member of a theatre audience. It was one actress, Elizabeth Counsell, alone on stage as Stella Goldschlag. The‘Blonde Poison’. Bringing to us the dark and true story of a German Jewess in Nazi Germany, a victim but also a cruel betrayer.
A tough story to tell, but the combined skills of the author, Gail Louw, and the actress, brilliantly allowed us moments of understanding. I cannot think this work would find a better interpreter than‘Elizabeth Counsell – she was superb. But then, she did have a marvellous script’’.
Written by Gail Louw, the play is based on the true story of Jewish woman Stella Goldschlag who betrayed as many as 3,000 fellow Jews during World War ll. The play follows Stella, a truly complex character, as we piece together her journey and the role she embraced working for the Gestapo in war-torn Berlin.
During her extensive and hugely successful acting career, Virginia has a unique insight having played similar characters herself – most famously the World War II SOE agent Violette Szabo in the hit film Carve Her Name with Pride opposite Paul Scofield; a role which won her a BAFTA nomination:
“You rarely get the opportunity to experience an evening in the theatre where every element of it could not be bettered: the writing, the directing, the performance, the atmosphere created… We sat riveted for the whole of the time. We could hardly breathe. It was spellbinding because it was true and uncompromising.”
Stella is a mature woman who exudes an overwhelming air of vanity and confidence, intermittently juxtaposed with glimpses of anxiety as she awaits the imminent arrival of Paul Waterman, once a childhood acquaintance and now, decades later, a journalist keen to interview Stella about her experiences:
“The tension, the uncertainty that you don’t know what this new person is going to bring to the story and how it’s going to change things or collapse things or destroy things… It’s the suspense and the way it’s directed by Tony Milner and the way Elizabeth performs it, that enhances that expectation.”
Many plays have dealt with World War II but Blonde Poison is quite different. Indeed the story of Stella Goldschlag and her extraordinary success as an informer was hidden from the public domain for many years, but here we find a true account of the War yet from a very different perspective:
“It’s an experience in the theatre and an experience of an aspect of the War that is little known and I think it’s important that as many people as possible go and see it, try to understand, just enter a new world for a brief space of time. It leaves you with so many things to think about and to me that’s what a good play does.”
“I think this is very clever writing on a huge topic; Gail has written an extremely brilliant play.”
Review by Susanne Crosby
"This was an incredible and intense portrayal of a woman the audience grew to simultaneously loathe and sympathise with.
Nervously awaiting the arrival of the journalist to interview her, Stella Goldschlag started imagining the questions he would ask, and remembered her life as a young woman in Berlin during the Second World War, and the series of events that led her to working for the Gestapo.
Nicknamed Blonde Poison, she was convicted of informing on more than 3,000 Jews. What would lead a Jewish woman to do this? Gail Louw’s play, based on fact, skilfully portrayed a hugely complex character, which Elizabeth Counsell delivered with an impeccable, powerful yet sensitive performance.
The audience was taken on the journey, laughing with her at her foibles, smiling at her pride in her white smile, and suffering with her torture from the Nazis.
It was uncomfortable yet gripping, including watching her talk with distaste about the Jewish people. She was so proud of how beautiful she looked: blonde, blue-eyed and, she said, non-Jewish.
This was a deeply shocking and thought-provoking play, raising many questions about the lengths people will go to for survival, and how they justify that to themselves.
She was brought up to think of herself as better than others, and it was clear there were some things she enjoyed about her work for the Gestapo. But was this evil within her or was it a means of survival?
This was an unforgettable evening, which will no doubt haunt many who were there."
The Sussex Jewish News
Review by Michelle Kay
"Blonde Poison: if the name doesn’t captivate you, then the performance certainly will. From the moment I arrived, I focused on nothing else. The [true] subject matter is a beautiful yet deadly heroine, Stella Kuebler-Goldschlag, who gave the lives of her fellow Jews in return for her own and her parents’ safety and the trappings of Nazi comfort. While the data varies, she was said to have ‘caught’ anywhere up to 3,000 victims during WWII.
Stella was intelligently portrayed by Elizabeth Counsell, who gave an engaging interpretation of Gail Louw’s clever script. The stage was simply set with Counsell’s stark blonde profile almost glowing against the dark cold set of Stella’s furnished flat. Counsell’s remarkable 90-minute monologue, conveyed the mixed bag of character traits that were wrapped up inside this woman. She laid out the case before us, pulling us into her confidence while simultaneously pushing us away with her arrogance and provoking our revulsion at what she had done. Despite all this, there were incongruous moments of humour that almost caught you off balance.
No matter what your knowledge of this period of history, for me this is a story you must be told. It is not a typical black and white account of the Holocaust. It is not easily digestible and audiences will not walk away unaffected. You will engage in dialogue about this. But perhaps more so than other Holocaust stories, you will be forced to look at all sides, and you will have to ask yourself the ultimate question “What would I have done?”
Marvellously written and wonderfully acted, Blonde Poison is
scheduled for another performance at the Jermyn Street Theatre in March 2012 and there is a UK tour in the planning."
Lyn Gardner’s blog
“To add to a list of 'must sees', can I strongly recommend Blonde Poison by Gail Louw, the Brighton writer who is developing quite a reputation amongst us theatre aficianados on the south coast. Her latest play which this week performed to a sell-out rapturous audience at Jermyn St Theatre is with Elizabeth Counsell, and is a true story about a young German Jewish woman who betrayed thousands of her fellow Jews during the war. Very powerful and affecting. It is now on tour including Oxford, Brighton festival, Croydon and Eastbourne. The reason I am plugging this play? I hate to see such talent missing out on the wider recognition it deserves.”
Ruth Leon, Playbill
“We are never free of the Holocaust. People will still be talking about it in 400 years, rather as we in Britain still talk of the Wars of the Roses and Americans about the Civil War. At Jermyn St, and now on tour throughout the UK, is Blonde Poison, the true story of a Jewish woman in war-torn Berlin who, to save herself from Auschwitz, agreed to betray other Jews to the Nazis.
Stella Goldschlag, as played by Elizabeth Counsell in a performance of surpassing brilliance, is said to have sent more than 3,000 of her fellow Jews to their death in concentration camps. It is a measure of Elizabeth Counsell’s achievement in this one-woman play that she is able to confront us with a real human being rather than a monster.”