All Aboard National Maritime Museum For A New, Nautical Adventure!

Ruth Hargreaves
By Ruth Hargreaves Last edited 32 months ago
All Aboard National Maritime Museum For A New, Nautical Adventure! ★★★★★ 5

Michael Cusick as Arthur in Against Captain's Orders. Photo by Paul J Cochrane

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

It’s all “Yo-ho-ho and a suck on my thumb” on board the National Maritime Museum for the next few months as Punchdrunk — leaders in the immersive theatre world — bring adventure and derring-do aplenty to curious six to 12 year olds.

'Immersive' is bandied about willy-nilly these days, with many productions not quite meeting the expectations of the term. But Against Captain’s Orders, without doubt, is deserving of the label. On our visit there were shrieks, gasps, wide-eyes, and even a couple of tears. It really was quite the adventure.

Upon arrival, the audience are asked to don life-jackets according to the nautical group they have been allocated to: Salvage, Ship’s Watch, Navigation and Midshipmen. You’re never separated from the other groups, but it’s a neat trick to assign a sense of purpose, encourage camaraderie, and allow the little ones to get stuck in on tasks ‘suited’ to their group.

The journey, a moving one undertaken entirely on foot, starts off innocently enough as curators Glan and Arthur (played by the charming Sammy Kissin and Michael Cusick on our visit, although the cast does alternate) introduce us to four of the National Maritime Museum’s treasured artefacts. But the objects soon vanish, and we embark on an underground adventure to retrieve them from the maze-like warren of museum storage vaults.

This is where Punchdrunk excels: the set. Throughout the journey we’re in boats surrounded by mist, clambering through cages strewn with nautical artefacts, running round mildew-scented corridors, uncovering a giant compass in a room cluttered with globes and maps. Sound design by Stephen Dobbie compliments Livi Vaughan’s design perfectly, with menacing drones and revelatory cascades echoing every stage of the adventure.

Accompanied at all times by gun-ho Glan and rule-lover Arthur, the production is highly interactive. Forward children are rewarded for their curiosity, while the more timid are gently encouraged to join in with special tasks (heck, even the grown-ups wanted to be the one chosen to push the Big Red Button).

With sight, smell and sound all utilised to great effect throughout the show, we do wonder whether it is all a bit overwhelming for the younger visitors. There are a couple of moments of complete darkness, as well as some loud noises, but the few tears we saw soon dried up. Brave young navigators with a willing sense of adventure will be captivated.

Against Captain’s Orders is on at National Maritime Museum, Romney Rd, Greenwich, SE10 9NF until 31 August 2015. Tickets cost £19.75. Strictly for children aged 6-12, all adult tickets must be sold alongside a child ticket (although there are special adult-only performances on Thursday evening for RMG members and Punchdrunk Keyholders). Running time 50 minutes. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.

Last Updated 16 April 2015