Avast! Those of you still trying to work out what the bejesus was going on in Punchdrunk’s cryptic odyssey ‘The Drowned Man’ will be relieved to discover that the latest show from the immersive theatre gurus ventures into calmer waters.
There’s a catch, though: ‘Against Captain’s Orders’ is in fact the work of Punchdrunk Enrichment, the company’s learning-centric spin-off, and is running not in a hip abandoned warehouse but the basement of the Greenwich Maritime Museum. And the bad news for the nerdier elements of Punchdrunk’s fanbase is that entry is pretty much determined on whether you’ve successfully procreated: the show is for six-to-12-year-olds only, plus accompanying adults. And you can be assured that no men were drowned in the making of this show.
If that all sounds alarmingly educational then fear ye not – Peter Higgin and Katy Balfour’s production of Simon Davies’ sturdy script is gently subversive, but defined by its unironic and wholehearted love of the idea of Going On An Adventure.
It’d be rather spoilery to say what type of adventure. But you’d be right to be suspicious about the po-faced opening, in which affable guides Glan (Lowri James) and Arthur (Danny Millar) sit us down to study some old naval paraphernalia. Before long a secret hidden inside one of the objects knocks this dull presentation off course, and sends us ploughing into hidden rooms and zipping along on an adventure that’s two parts ‘Crystal Maze’ to one part ‘adult’ Punchdrunk, with a delicious sprinkling of ‘Doctor Who’-ish brio.
Adults will enjoy the air of old-fashioned derring-do and marvel as they wander through Livi Vaughan’s gloriously detailed, junk-strewn sets. But really, this is one for the kids. It isn’t Punchdrunk’s most sophisticated show, but as far as I could tell every single tween in the room got into the swashbuckling spirit, and that’s basically all that counts