The Smell of the Soul


SOS 2015 trailer from Erika Batdorf on Vimeo.

I FINALLY edited the video by John Lauener from the Toronto production of Smell of the Soul!  It was such great fun to see it again!

It is a collaboration with Arwinda from Germany, a two piece band with accordian and didgeridoo. An interactive musical comedy with provocative content about the relationship between humans and nature. Three carrion bugs try to find out if the audience has a soul, if the human spirit is dead or if humans have an afterlife. Ridiculous and profound, irreverent and thought provoking, this 90 minute piece engages the audience in a fun and deep examination of death in life, our relationship to nature and the soul.

Written by Erika Batdorf in collaboration with Arwinda, Lisa Schamberger and Christian Bestle. Guillaume Bernardi directed the Toronto version, Trevor Schwellnus did the scenography (his fantastic idea to hang the didgeridoos!) and Michelle Tracy did the costumes- which were such fun (though I dearly missed Gus Yogi's bone carvings...). In the Toronto version we also inserted Chris von Baeyer doing a climate change lecture.

(In Jakarta climate change is such a real issue with all the flooding, that you don't really need a lecture, plus my havng Dengue fever and Chikungunya when I performed, was a fun way (hmm, actually it was far from fun) but a concrete way to addreas, ironically, infestation and the dillemma about killing insects.)

You can see the version in Jakarta below at Salihara Theatre, which was just Arwinda and I and an actress Retno Sudibyo Lawu as a fourth bug, Lacrymosa, translating the piece for the mostly Indonesian audience, and then a slideshow of photos from that show, the Munich show and me working with the Indonesian bone carvings in Bali.

Bone masks designed and created by Gus Yogi.

After a first workshop performance in Tblisi, Georgia, where Arwinda and Erika met, they proceeded to work on it again for a performance at the Heppel & Ettlich theatre in Munich. The next performances were in Jakarta June 7 and 8 presented by Salihara. 

Review links and excerpts:

and from The Jakarta Globe - June 18, 2013 -

‘The Smell of The Soul’: A Spiritually Soulful Cabaret

“The Smell of the Soul…is new, profound... unique… focus on audience participation… The artists… projected emotion and atmosphere by coming out onto the stage as bugs eating decomposing bodies, a hint at the show’s central themes of death, the afterlife and the soul.

Batdorf shared the weighty, grim themes with the audience in a light, humorous, yet matter-of-fact manner… punctuated by Schamberger’s soulful, dirge-like singing and accordion, as well as Bestle’s unearthly didgeridoo."

and here are some interesting Indonesian blog reviews and responses:

Audience comments from the first workshop in Munich:

"The piece has the potential to get people to question their attitude about life. Lovely haunting music and you are a strong personality able to hold everything together."

"I went back and forth between laughing and my jaw dropping open"

"Wonderful topic, great music and interesting perspective on death"

"I liked the show, especially the topic, This is something that is not often talked about (in public).  I really liked the two women singing together."

"I loved your program. You have (a) nice spiritual message and it makes the audience reflect."

Another fascinating reaction to the performance, over half of the audience stayed and talked after the show for an hour!

Technical requirements:

This show is designed to be performed in a variety of spaces. It can be done in a traditional theatre or in a gallery space. It needs good sound, but can tech fairly quickly or with great detail, depending on the space. The piece can also integrate a fourth actor in another language.