Australia’s finest theatrical re-inventors, Branch Nebula are gifting us with some great new shows that will definitely spruce up your whip. The counter-cultural theatre company is debuting yet another project that brings the virtuosity of street culture in an adrenaline pumping mix of skate, BMX, parkour and street dance in extremis with Wollongong's Merrigong Theatre production at the coastal city's Town Hall. Grand Pacific Customs caught up with directors and performers in rehersals of 'Air Time' to get to know the 'folk behind the stoke' that are bringing this WORLD PREMIERE to our region on the world's edge.
Austin Gray - skateboarder.
Your Instagram bio is 'ART - the rest is unwritten, which seems a pretty accurate descriptor of the cross-over from the traditional skate performance scene to the world of theatrical spectacular, how was that flip? And if you were to get some hours off between the shows of the opening week to hit the skate parks in the Illawarra, where would we find you?
'My first experience with Branch Nebula was amazing. I had never worked in theatre but very quickly learnt my role and what it was like to be a performer. It definitely was uncomfortable but that’s how we grow. And this show Air Time has certainly grown since the beginning. My first theatrical performance was superb and luckily still is, with such a cool crew!
I believe the best skatepark in the vicinity would have to be either Fairy Meadow, or Berkeley (featured above). Both two amazing yet distinct skateparks with much variety included. This is due to the flow of the park, size, comfortability (sic) and quality of concrete.'
Alex Hiam - BMXer.
Looking at your Instagram some of the tricks are insane, which shows why you have such a huge following. The locations and moves are already art, is that why joining Branch Nebula on their Air Time project was such a natural step for you?
'I am inspired so much from art and always have been, seeing others ‘branch’ out and go their own way really inspires me. This opportunity came my way, and it was a completely new experience that sounded fun and explorative, the intention to having an open mind, wanting to be creative and work with other like-minded souls who want to bring their best performances to life.
I am enjoying learning so many new skills off my bike, like dancing and working with a choreographer and parkour which is adding a new flavour to my riding that I never expected.
Adapting to the creative development process with so many other elements involved like live lighting and sound while we rehearse. There’s a lot more going on, which was a challenge for me to adjust to less riding solely and more collaboration with others creativity, understanding that we are all working to the same result. I have never been in the theatre so I am very new to this world and routine but am loving it!'
Lee Wilson - Branch Nebula Co-Artistic Director
For two decades Branch Nebula have been at the cutting edge of what is possible in an area of physical theatre and that authentically works with street sports. How do you keep it fresh and how do you find the people to realise that vision?
Air Time is a way to combine the interests we have in objects and visual play. It's an evolution of our works, each time we make a street-style show we try to evolve the ideas into new areas, and progress the ideas, but we also incorporate discoveries from our more experimental work and we bring that into our street-style work as well. As directors we have an affinity for wanting or an interest in creating performance and choreography that was based on what we could physically do, wanting to approach it with a breaking-the-rules, punk, DIY attitude.
There’s no audition process. I find people by going to them. It’s a head hunting process.
Mirabelle Wouters- Branch Nebula Co -Artistic Director + Set Designer
What principles guide the process of designing a show for an indoor space with street sports talent that are more used to being outdoors and how do blend the two environments?
'I have no rules. In regard to the set, I just work very architecturally. Designing the ramps has been very much in consultation with BMXers and skaters. So I like to expose the fabric of the theatre and I like to have a real space not a pretend space on stage so we are not pretending that we are in a skate park but we are just having skate ramps that are really amazing and look beautiful in a theatre space.'
The final word came from BMXer Alex Hiam on what he would say to the kid he once was about committing to life of being perpetually airborne.
"Do what makes you happy!"
Breaking the rules and doing what makes us happy is something that we can ride with.
And if you need some tunes with that, check out our SOUNDS journal of all the music from this coast you may have missed. Just hit this link for some audio awakenings.
Grand Pacific have partnered with Merrigong Theatre, Wollongong for the premiere of Air Time on the 20th April. One lucky thriller will enjoy two tickets to see the show, meet the performers and lock themselves the latest skater tee from us. The competition is running on Instagram from Friday 14th until Tuesday 18th April for a pair of tickets and the latest AMPED tee.
Just hit us up on Instagram under the AIR TIME posts and tag a friend to follow us and we will draw the winner and their tag buddy on Tuesday to attend the event and collect their AMPED tee on the evening of Thursday 20th April 2023. terms and conditions apply*
The latest drop is highlighted by some new seasonal hues in the signature graphic style that takes a playful approach of utilising refound local graffiti fonts. This forms part of GPCs always locally designed and hand printed skater collection expansion in recent years, as a move away from corporate streetwear.
Being AMPED at every turn is what the Illawarra is all about, right?
* Tickets and seating are at the discretion of the theatre. No transport to and from the event is provided. All entrants must be over 16 years of age and be able to attend the event and be happy to be photographed for publicity purposes. No ticket exchanges or financial compensations are available.