In March 2015 Against Captain’s Orders opened to the public. A groundbreaking collaboration between the National Maritime Museum and immersive theatre makers Punchdrunk Enrichment, Against Captain’s Orders invites younger museum visitors on an adventure that will challenge their understanding of history.
Now in a series of blogs the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and Punchdrunk (PD) come together again to discuss how the exhibition developed from initial concept stage to the first visitors through the door. However, like all things that go Against Captain’s Orders these blogs aren’t quite what they seem…
PD: It’s a grey, somewhat damp Monday morning. But we are here at the National Maritime Museum for the first of a series of conversations about our collaboration Against Captain’s Orders.
NMM: ha ha, Yes.
PD: You look nervous.
NMM: You look very excited and I’ve learnt that normally means you’re planning something.
PD: Not at all. Well maybe a little one. But first things first. You asked if we would be happy to discuss the project and how we worked together in a series of conversations for the museum blog..
NMM: And you said that there were a few things you didn’t want to talk about explicitly as they could risk lessening the enjoyment for people yet to visit the exhibition.
PD: Yes… No spoilers.
NMM: But you did also say you would have a think and come back with a proposal of how we might do something that worked for everyone.
PD: Exactly. We really don’t want to ruin any surprises, but there is more to think about. From the very beginning you have pushed us to find new ways of approaching the museum, new angles from which to present the history inside, new voices in which to tell its stories.
NMM: We have.
PD: So it felt like a bit of a cheat not to take the same approach now and do something more than a series of regular blog posts. Sooooo...
PD: We have a proposal.
NMM: Go on.
PD: What if I said the name Elinor Grey.
NMM: I would say I wondered if that name might come up.
PD: What can you tell me about it.
NMM: Elinor Grey was supposedly the name of a curator who worked at the museum in the 1940s and 50s, possibly into the 60s. There is a story, a myth really, that she disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving nothing behind, but a handful of scribbled notes. It’s a story most people at the museum have heard, though few, I hasten to add, lend any credence to it. If I remember rightly you first heard the tail during a visit to the museum stores.
PD: I did. From Bernie.
NMM: Of course. Bernie.
PD: We should do a show about him.
NMM: We really should. He told you the story and you got very excited even though, as I told you at the time…
PD: There is no evidence of a mystery at all. No, which is why we left it alone. However we loved that story and as the conversation it sparked helps illustrate a key theme of the exhibition we thought now might be a good time to revisit dear Elinor.
NMM: So what’s the proposal.
PD: The proposal is this. We explore the myth, the truth, the lies, follow it wherever in the museum it takes us and whilst we’re exploring we discuss the process of making Against Captain's Orders - an exhibition which after all is about exploring history.
NMM: I see what you’ve done there.
PD: Yes. I’m very proud of it..
NMM: So you’re suggesting that in an attempt to explain how a national museum and an immersive theatre company worked together we turn detective and solve a mystery that more than likely doesn’t even exist?
PD: That sort of thing yes.
NMM: It’s perfect nonsense. Where do we start?
PD: We start at the beginning.
NMM: Summer 2013?
PD: And April 1937.
NMM: The day the museum opened. PD: Exactly…