Words by Zack Anthony Curran
Branch Nebula’s mind-bending one-man show High Performance Packing Tape
will open tonight at The Studio as part of the UnWrapped September series. The season follows a critically acclaimed, sold-out premiere at Liveworks 2018 and comes to the Sydney Opera House after an international
premiere at Homo Novus Festival in Riga in September, and will also tour to Melbourne Festival in October.
Boundary-pushing performance-makers Branch Nebula use ready-made objects, stationery and hardware items to place solo performer Lee Wilson in a series of tension-inducing planes and predicaments, pushing both artist and
materials to breaking point.
High Performance Packing Tape explores fear, the dynamics of self-preservation and risk-management to create thrilling new possibilities for physical performance.
Wilson deftly transforms everyday materials and office consumables into the infrastructure of his own peril. He scales towers of empty cardboard boxes that inevitably collapse, suspends himself from materials that stretch and snap, and balances precariously on structures held together by inflated balloons. This captivating performance holds the audience in an electrifying state of suspense at the very point where control and chaos collide.
We caught up with Lee Wilson from Branch Nebula to chat all things contemporary performance.
How long have you been working in contemporary performance?
Branch Nebula has been around for 20 years and I’ve been doing contemporary performance for 30 years.
How did the concept for High Performance Packing Tape come about?
This idea of working with objects and readymade items, stuff off the shelf, has been around the company and part of our practices for many years.
I met with Mickie and got chatting about our time squatting in Sydney, and discussed some acquaintances we had who had a lot of industrial box straps stored in a warehouse and they were jumping into it and using it as a crash mat. I used to work as a store-person and packer, when I had to pack a truck full of boxes of goods for the supermarket, it was like Tetris, and I’d be climbing all around inside trying to get the perfect pack.
You're doing some pretty amazing stuff up there, what is the craziest thing you've ever done on stage?
Traditional theatre, like Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus which I never want to do again.
You're one of the co-founders of Branch Nebula which is a company making socially and politically engaged performance work. A lot of creatives find themselves floating between projects and genres, trying to figure out where they fit in the creative world. What was the process in forming a company for this kind of work and creating a home for your ideas?
Mirabelle Wouters and I started out wanting to collaborate together, once we did that, we focussed on the next project and then the next project. We went on like that for a while. Only in the last few years did we decide that the only way to survive in Sydney was to become an organisation, form a board and try to get a regular wage.
Early on in Belgium we had to form a company there, too, to get funding, but it was a much more simple process there to do that.
In coming up with a name for the company, I sat down and said “I’m going to come up with a name” and half an hour later I came up with it and suggested it to Mirabelle and she liked it too.
Whats next for you?
After the Sydney Opera House season of High Performance Packing Tape we take it to Melbourne Festival. Following that, we come back to Sydney and start the development of our new street-style show called DEMO, which will have its world premiere in late October.
High Performance Packing Tape
Dates: 18- 22 September 2019
Location: The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Tickets: $39 + booking fee
Collaborating Artists Lee Wilson, Mickie Quick, Mirabelle Wouters, Phil Downing
Consultant Antek Marciniec
Producer Harley Stumm – Intimate Spectacle
Click here for tickets & info