“Safety first,” whispers the young boy sitting behind me to his mum. The kid has a point.
Branch Nebula’s High Performance Packing Tape returns to the Adelaide Festival in 2021 after cancelling its 2020 performance run due to performer injury. One could be forgiven for thinking Work Health Safety was ignored this year, but that makes this performance unique.
Starring Timothy Ohl, High Performance Packing Tape demonstrates how everyday objects can create vibrant and thrilling performances. Ohl turns storage boxes into climbing equipment, chairs into ladders, gym balls into protective furnishings, a measuring tape into a weapon, and rubber bands into a swing. Packing tape is the versatile bond that brings them all together.
The performance utilises sounds, and lack thereof, to create a sense of apprehension. As Ohl repeatedly climbs over ten feet into the air, soundscapes intertwined with intensified stage noises accompany him leaving you holding your breath in anticipation. However, the intensity is further heightened during moments of pure silence and also increases feelings of awkwardness.
High Performance Packing Tape varies from other physical theatre productions insofar as it demonstrates the process of creating the majority of props. For example, we painstakingly watch Ohl construct his packing tape high wire fulling knowing what the final product is well before it is completed. This is a drawn-out process that straddles the line between anticipation and tedium.
In addition to soundscapes and silence, collaborating artists Lee Wilson, Mickie Quick, Mirabelle Wouters, Phil Downing and Antek Marciniec employ other theatrical devices to portray mood. Devices such as shadows, smoke and strobe lighting are visually compelling and steer the performance away from being a traditional physical theatre piece. However, in the context of the overall narrative, their inclusion detracts from the show’s cohesiveness.
High Performance Packing Tape is a unique performance highlighting what strength, discipline, and imagination can achieve. With literal death-defying acts, this show necessitates courage from performers and audiences alike.
Adelaide Festival Review By Anita Kertes
For show info and tickets to High Performance Packing Tape head to the Adelaide Festival