Blonde Poison, a one-woman show starring Sydney Theatre Awards Nominee Belinda Giblin, opened its season at the Sydney Opera House last Friday evening. It follows the story of Stella Goldschlag, a German woman living in Berlin during the second World War. The show questions what sacrifices must be made when fighting for survival.

The show began with great intensity the moment the lights came up, as Giblin’s character, Stella, appeared onstage reading a letter. The script itself was a little slow to begin with, hesitating before actually feeding the audience the information they needed. As more and more of it trickled out, however, audience members engaged with the content at different points. Once they were truly engaged, they hung off every word. Giblin, on the other hand, you engaged with from the start, when she looked up from the letter and took the audience in. The intensity behind her eyes made it very clear that they should strap themselves in for one hell of a story.

Giblin’s accent work was impeccable, perfectly capturing every nuance, and the same attack you would expect to hear in an authentic German accent. It’s a particularly hard hitting, muscular and energetic accent, especially difficult to sustain for that length of time, but not once did she falter or show signs of vocal fatigue. If anything, she found new energy and momentum along the way, a particularly remarkable feat considering how high she had set the bar to begin with.

Giblin was nothing but generous when sharing Stella’s stories. She provided relief where needed, and never raced the more upbeat, heart-warming or comic moments. Her story-telling itself was beautiful, teasing the audience with snippets of information before revealing the more confronting, ‘bombshell’ moments.

The imagery Giblin created when bringing the text to life, along with her sublime use of embodiment, transported the audience seamlessly in and out of when her memories were first created and the present day. It was breathtaking, with so much attention to detail. This, when partnered with the subtle changes in lighting and the very real sound effects, added a delicate extra dimension that would have been criminal to leave out of the construction of Stella’s tale.

Jennifer Hagan’s direction was generous and very clever, giving Giblin clear anchor points to direct her dialogue and focus. As a result, this gave Giblin complete control of the space – never once did she appear lost or let the space consume her, nor did the audience question her intentions. Every move seemed purposeful.

The set design was very detailed and expressed a homely feel right down to the last shoebox under the sofa. However, it was not excessive and still provided Giblin with ample room to play. It allowed her to connect with her audience freely without compromising her performance. The set, along with lighting and sound, added an extra layer that was critical for Giblin. These aspects supported her and her storytelling without demanding anything of her.

Giblin’s focus and professionalism should also be commended, as there were multiple moments when audience members provided ample cause for distraction, but never once was she thrown or her performance affected. 90 minutes without an interval was almost too long, but that can be attributed more to the nature of the material’s construction.

“Blonde Poison” was a sophisticated and spine-tingling piece of theatre. It kept a tight rein on excess, yet gave the audience an experience they are sure to mull over even after having left the theatre. The show started out strong, and only continued to grow from strength to strength throughout, before ending with an unparalleled bang.

Written by Sophie Perkins

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