2019 Adelaide Festival Review: Schuldfabrik

What: Schuldfabrik
When: 1st March – 17th March
Where: Self: Human Soap Store Front, 29 King William Street, Adelaide
Tickets: $29, soap $35, or $30 with admission

Schuldfabrik is made of a word with two meanings in German, with Schuld translating to both ‘guilt’ as in a moral duty and ‘debt’ as in an economic obligation. These two meanings of schuld are the topic of Julian Hetzel’s show.

With the launch of the Adelaide Festival program came the outrage that someone was making SOAP out of REAL HUMAN FAT! The articles reporting this were almost clickbait. The show itself, however, was a completely different story.

We begin waiting in the Self: Human Soap store on King William Street. Eventually a man arrives, barks “Come!” and six of us follow around the corner, down a back alley, and up two flights of stairs to a sterile waiting room. This is just the beginning.

Over the course of the next hour, our small group tours the soap factory. We are directed from room to room by a disembodied voice over a PA System. To begin, we must empty ourselves in small, dark cubicles of guilt that could be weighing on us. No, answers a woman, I don’t know where my shirt was made. Yes, says another, I have despised the person I love. The silence, our shared guilt, and the isolation within the cubicles weighs heavy in me.

Now that’s done, we see the factory. Highlights include a real sweat shop, powered by a boy on a rowing machine, and the most beautiful soap art, a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write.

At the end, we are greeted by the CEO of Self: Human Soap. He explains to us the business model. He is farming fat from people undergoing liposuction, the fat of Western society that has been built from over-indulging, and making it into soap. We, Western people who can often spend money on a dinner or after work drinks on a Friday on a whim, are able to buy this soap. The money from these proceedings going towards providing hygiene and clean drinking water for a village in the Congo. Both meanings of guilt are highlighted.

After immersion in this strange world, I leave remembering how privileged I am. Schuldfabrik has continued to weigh heavy in my chest.

5 out of 5 stars

Natalie Carfora

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