Against Captain’s Orders – a Journey into the Uncharted
Punchdrunk Enrichment bestows its mastery of the interactive theatrical experience upon the National Maritime Museum in this promenade performance for accompanied children aged from six to 12. As much a celebration of the museum’s vast treasury of maritime artefacts as a tribute to seafarers that owned them, the show takes place along labyrinthine corridors and inside intriguing storerooms, with just a hint of menace lurking in the shadows.
Guides Arthur Ambrose, the museum curator, and Glan, his colleague, appear to be running a tight ship. They explain to their audience – organised into lifejackets and divided into four working parties – the roles they will perform. It’s Glan’s curiosity that casts the museum’s security systems into a high-drama lockdown and a race against time.
The stars of the show are undoubtedly a series of walk-though sets in half-lit rooms, each a veritable cabinet of the museum’s curiosities, packed to the gunwales with artfully arranged items – maps, globes, compasses, bottles, parchments, navigational instruments – evidently wanted on many a historic voyage.
The attention to detail and the timing of the sound and light effects in each mustering place are so impressive that you want to disobey orders and linger. Richard Popple as Arthur and Sammy Kissin as Glan pitch their leadership qualities as expedition leaders just right, taking time to confer with the children while looking as if they’re as bewildered by the extraordinary events as their young crew.
After such excitement, egress into the museum’s gift shop may cause a sinking feeling.