MIAF: High Performance Packing Tape

MIAF19 Branch Nebula High Performance Packing Tape – photo by Tristan StillOne man, acts of potentially-dangerous physical daring, and an assortment of industrial gear and storage supplies – High Performance Packing Tape is certainly one to stick in the memory.

The man is trained acrobat and aerialist Lee Wilson, co-founder (with Marabelle Wouters) of company Branch Nebula. The show has arisen by chance as a result of Wilson, with long-time friend and visual artist Mickie Quick, playing with materials like storage boxes and packing tape.

The immediate hook for me was the show’s promotional image in the MIAF printed guide. Imagine suspending yourself above a hard surface using packing tape, a product subject to an inevitable (yet possibly not rigorously tested) degree of variability. Through acts like this, the show delivered on its suggestion of play and risk-taking.

In the show’s programme, Branch Nebula made it clear that they were not trying to tell a particular story or establish a character. They later noted that audience members have drawn on their background to create their own individual story to go with the action.

Against the drone of a machine shop soundtrack, it seems that our performer has had time to think through the kinds of experiments he wants to perform with the packing supplies. Now, having the space all to himself, he has the opportunity to put all of these carefully constructed plans into operation.

High Performance Packing Tape might be quite polarising for audiences. Some might find that the repetitive tasks required in setup for a challenge can make the work plodding. However, others – say those with an OCD streak who embrace repetition in getting things done – will find a curious, even escalating amusement in the commitment to mundanity that enables the extraordinary acts to follow.

The online MIAF guide uses a different promotional image for the show. I won’t spoil the associated scene, but under strobe lighting it brought an astounding explosion of energy that seems to demonstrate the value of amusing yourself.

There were times when I was watching open-mouthed in surprise at Wilson’s persistence with stunts and unnecessary risk-taking. There’s also unexpected, complete nudity. Having had our attention bound by this High Performance Packing Tape, the audience will never think about cardboard boxes in the same way again.

High Performance Packing Tape
Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Friday 4 October 2019 – 8:30pm
Season continues to 6 October 2019
Information and Bookings: www.festival.melbourne

Image: High Performance Packing Tape – photo by Tristan Still

Review: Jason Whyte