High Performance Packing Tape, by Branch Nebula

Completed work, tours 2020-21

Creative Team

Lee Wilson, Mickie Quick, Mirabelle Wouters, Phil Downing Producer: Intimate Spectacle

About the work

In High Performance Packing Tape, celebrated Australian company Branch Nebula employs readymade materials—stationery and disposable hardware items—to place performer Lee Wilson in a series of mind-bending planes and predicaments.

Ordinary everyday materials. Endless mind bending predicaments. This heart pumping physical performance pushes artist and audience to breaking point. You will never look at cardboard boxes, packing tape or rubber bands the same way again.

High Performance Packing Tape is the OH&S nightmare that transforms everyday stationery and office consumables into the infrastructure of one person’s physical ruin. Performer Lee Wilson scales collapsing towers, hangs precariously from bridges unable to carry their weight and asks more of cheap materials than they’re ever able to give.

Pivoting deftly between visceral terror and the ridiculous, this masterclass in contemporary performance needles at our desire for self-preservation and material wellbeing with a series of scenarios that each ratchet up the tension another notch. The sterile language of workplace safety, risk assessment and best practice is thrown to the wind, and though the suspense might be killing you, it’s Wilson’s neck that’s on the line.

Branch Nebula’s innovative, category-defying works have defined the bleeding edge of Australian contemporary performance for years, and High Performance Packing Tape showcases the high levels of collaboration, invention and technique that make this possible. Wilson and Branch Nebula’s co-director Mirabelle Wouters are joined by visual artist Mickie Quick and sound artist Phil Downing to create an immersive sensory world that places audiences deep in the action.

HPPT is designed for small and medium theatres. It has a touring party of 4, and the main set structure will be built of standard scaffold pipes sourced locally.

Production History

Commissioned by Performance Space for Liveworks, October 2018
Homo Novus Festival, Riga Latvia, September 9-12, 2019
Sydney Opera House, September 18-22, 2019
Arts House (Melbourne Festival), October 2-6, 2019
Adelaide Festival, March 5-8, 2020

Reviews & comment

“This is quintessential “poor theatre” using an absolute economy of means to create tension. The effectiveness of the set-up is hidden in plain sight until the very end, when the tension is finally released and the audience erupts in applause. Highly satisfying.”

Jana Perkovic, The Age, October 3, 2019 Full Review

“This is a process, a serial testing of materials in which the human body sets itself against the physical stresses of the world it encounters. […] As Wilson’s tasks accumulate, so do the meanings around them. What seems to be a process-led performance becomes insensibly darker. Wilson’s final task is exhilarating and oddly liberating: a man-package, claustrophobically taped up, soaring across the space, swinging lower and lower as gravity exerts its pull. There’s a sense of breath finally released, of an obscure darkness expiated.”

Alison CroggonWitness Performance, October 5, 2019. Full Review

“For a company committed to explorations of the nature of work and of play as art, High Performance Packing Tape represents a superb synthesis of these preoccupations and the apotheosis to date of Branch Nebula’s creativity. Lee Wilson’s worker is indefatigably industrious, skilled, inventive and risk-taking, facially expressionless, never a clown in this serious circus of the working life. Mirabelle Wouters’ design conjures monumentality out of boxes, air-pumps and exercise balls as does Phil Downing’s amplification and manipulation of the sounds found in Wilson’s labours.”

Keith Gallasch, Realtime 14/11/2018 (Full review)

Audience responses on social media

 “Congratulations Branch Nebula team for this work, the track felt so intense and alive – I was having such a good time. I loved it!! Those bizarre precipices and edges.”

“The show was absolutely AMAZING – CAPS lock shouting totally necessary. Really – you and Mirabelle and collaborators have made something truly astonishing, terrifying and profound! And Phil’s sound was everything sound in performance should be, perfectly magnifying moments and utterly essential!”

 “Super awe inspiring on all levels and senses!”