I arrived early at the Old Royal Naval College to explore the venue and dive into the history of this place. What a spectacular location to host 1797: The Mariner’s Revenge, a spooky immersive experience in which the audience is actively encouraged to participate. It is, as you might have guessed, 1797, and in the attic of the Admiral’s House we meet a wounded mariner. While Lord Nelson is entertaining some of his guests – including a captain – downstairs, we meet Jack recovering from injuries sustained at sea. When we first see him, he is delirious, somewhere between dream and reality. He tells us about his fiancée and explains that the stuffed albatross above the bed keeps him company. It is the start of a turbulent play in which the audience no longer knows what is real and what is dreamed.

Credit: Hannah Anketell

The play takes us back to the moment when Jack is lost at sea. His crew left him and some other mariners in a boat. We hear about a mission that was doomed from the start and learn about the superstitions of the seafarers of the time. Thus, on the second day of seafaring, the ‘Klabauertmann’ was seen on deck, an unmistakable omen of impending disaster. We dive into the scenes that lead to Jack losing his mind bit by bit and getting more and more into a conversation with the albatross he met while at sea. In the end, we find ourselves back in the attic of the Admiral’s House. It is the grand finale, the meeting between wounded Jack and the captain, whom he blames for his misfortune.

Credit: Hannah Anketell

In the end, 1797: The Mariner’s Revenge leaves me with a few unanswered questions: How deep have we delved into the troubled mind of the mariner? When did the lines between reality and madness blur and when did we resurface? Did we ever resurface again, or was the finale just another trick of Jack’s mind? I found it incredibly exciting, confusing, and sometimes disturbing. The themes of the play are somewhere between love, hate, madness, and yes, revenge. Even if the dreams were too wild for my personal liking at one point or another, and I wondered what I was seeing, I have to say that the actors all do a fantastic job. Norma Butikofer first lends her voice to the albatross and then very convincingly her body as well. I was fascinated by the small details of her performance, which made it clear who she is and what she wants – no more explanation needed. Mark Knightley, as a feverishly dreaming Jack, uses facial expressions and gestures to lead us deeper and deeper into the darkness of his mind with disturbing success. Daniel Chrisostomou, as the captain, convinced me above all with his voice, while Ross Lennon and Kyll Thomas-Chole as sailors encourage the audience to join in the fun and are excellent ‘comic releases’ as well as dark companions on Jack’s adventure.

Credit: Hannah Anketell

1797: The Mariner’s Revenge is definitely an experience. It opens doors into the history of the Old Royal Naval College and in particular the Admiral’s House as a hospital that might otherwise not have been opened. It is an evening well spent.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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