More than two years on from her Argus Angel-winning play’s debut, Gail Louw’s feeling about her central character Stella Goldschlag hasn’t changed.

“I think she’s a monster,” she says. “There were an awful lot of people who didn’t do what she did. They put their families at risk to save strangers.”

Blonde Poison is based on the true story of the Nazi collaborator Goldschlag, who informed on her fellow Jews in return for her family’s safety and her own comfort within the vicious regime.

The play, which stars Elizabeth Counsell as the titular Blonde Poison, sees Goldschlag preparing herself for an interview decades later with journalist and one-time childhood sweetheart Peter Wyden by trying to justify what she did.

Brighton-based Louw is keen to emphasise that Blonde Poison isn’t “just another Holocaust play”.

“It’s a moral story,” she says. “It’s asking the question: ‘What would I have done in that situation?’ “Somebody said to me that the play isn’t about a hero or an anti-hero – Stella is an ordinary person who is vain and selfish. It can be lifted above the Holocaust framework.”

She was inspired to write the play after attending a lecture by Roger Moorhouse concerning his 2010 social history Berlin At War which mentioned Goldschlag’s story.

Her research included reading Wyden’s 1993 book Stella: One Woman’s True Tale Of Evil, Betrayal And Survival In Hitler’s Germany. She decided to use a planned meeting between the writer and Goldschlag as the underlying structure of the play.

“There’s a lot of stuff on Google – even a picture of her among other students at Goldschmidt School in Berlin where she looks like such a sweet and cute blonde little girl,” she says.

“I feel an enormous amount of antipathy towards her – but when we have Q & A sessions after the play people often say they empathise with her. I’m always surprised by that, but less so than I was at the beginning.”

Perhaps some of the reason behind that conclusion is the bravura performance by Counsell, who was invited to perform a rehearsed reading and ended up making the role her own.

“We were initially thinking of somebody like Julie Christie – Susannah Yorke was going to do it before she died,” says Louw. “I can’t see anyone else who would be as good as Elizabeth though – people go crazy for her performance.

“We needed somebody quite quickly for a rehearsed reading and [New Vic Workshop’s] Tony Milner thought of her. As soon as she did it we didn’t think we needed a big name.”

Following successful runs at Eastbourne’s Studio Season and the Brighton Fringe, Blonde Poison has gone on a national tour funded by the Arts Council.

The play has also been translated into Hungarian and Hebrew, and is set to be performed in both the US and South Africa in the future.

Louw has returned to the Holocaust for a follow-up play – I’m Not A Jew – which focuses on the Hungarian experience of the mass genocide.

“It’s set in the mid-1980s and it’s about a husband and wife who went through the Holocaust and are now retired,” she says.“It’s a different slant – the play is about identity.

“So many Hungarian Jews had converted and were second generation Catholics but [German lieutenant colonel and war criminal Adolf] Eichmann came along and said ‘You’re Jewish, we’re going to kill you.’ “It starts when their daughter phones up, having found out her grandparents died at Auschwitz.”

Tackling tough issues

Louw is currently penning a piece based around Lewisham Liberal Democrat councillor Duwayne Brooks, who was with murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence on the night he was brutally murdered in a racist attack.

“It’s a play about Duwayne and the police,” says Louw. “He was treated incredibly badly.

“He didn’t come from an amazing background – he was seen as a ragamuffin by Doreen Lawrence who blamed him for her son getting into trouble.

“But now he’s a councillor and stood for mayor [of London]. It’s about how people can achieve great things.”

She hopes to bring the play to the Brighton Fringe this year.

She feels education is at the heart of art and culture, and admits she wants to “scream and shout” at the way Israeli Jews are now treating Palestinians and African Americans.

“For me Israel was a socialist country – with the kibbutz movement and no death penalty,” she says. “It was important stuff – but it’s not like that any more.

“Everyone has to learn lessons. Perhaps that’s the role of theatre, film and art – to make people think, consider and work things out for themselves.

“It’s how society progresses in a more human way.”