This solo performance from Elisabeth Counsell is based on the life of a Jewish, but not ‘Jewish-looking’ woman, the “Blonde Poison” of the title, who protects herself in Nazi Germany by shopping other Jews to the Gestapo. The difficulty with drama about the Holocaust lies in finding something new to say about a horrific era that has been examined in minute detail countless times. Does this one succeed? Well, only partly. Here we’re invited to examine the tensions for a person in that time who is at once a victim and a perpetrator, and what contradictions that throws up. The format of the play makes it difficult to do that. Told by herself as a recollection in old age, and with little in the way of stage action, this is in essence a long, uninterrupted monologue, rather than a play; and is unenlivened by other characters. Many other characters are referred to – lovers, parents, teachers, fellow Jewish refugees – but none of them fleshed out or brought to life in any way, merely mentioned as problems in the long exposition of the unpleasant occurrences in the life of an essentially unpleasant woman. In the end it is difficult to continue to engage with her, because she is so unsympathetic (in both senses) in our eyes. The relentless bleakness and narcissism of her story in the end makes it a tad monotonous, only partly relieved by occasional histrionics and a somewhat melodramatic ending. Though this is a strenuous and meticulously observed piece of acting, in which the performer accurately portrays a self-pitying and rather callous woman who bemoans her own fate while being largely unconcerned over the fate of others, an evening spent in such company can drag more than a little.
John Christopher Wood