What doesn’t kill you …


When I was 11 two things happened to me: I climbed a tall tree in a storm, and I watched the film Alien. One of these things gave me nightmares for years afterwards; the other was scary, exhilarating and life-affirming. Which one was unsafe? As you may have guessed, it was my time on the claustrophobic Nostromo with Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt’s little friend that traumatised me.  I can still recall a particularly gruelling Alien nightmare that I had in my early 20s.  I’ve watched the film subsequently, as well as a couple of the sequels, but at 11 I was unprepared for the psychological shock I received. Clinging to the top branches of a poplar tree as it tossed in a fierce gale, I knew I was fairly safe.   I’d done this kind of thing before; I knew my limits; and climbing that tree was me pushing past them gently.

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The Larp O’ the Irish


… my apologies for that appalling pun.  But I grew up there so I can get away with it.

Another reason I can get away with it is that it’s my lovely sister Carla who is bringing the gift of larp to Limerick, which happens to be European City of Culture for 2014.

The financial crisis has hit the city of Limerick hard, as elsewhere in Ireland.  One good consequence of this is that artists’ studios pop up in peculiar places – a former city centre Benetton store, for example.  An enlightened local government policy allows landlords property tax exemptions if they allow artists to use spaces.  Low rents and Ireland’s still-generous welfare system have also contributed to a mini-renaissance of Irish art.

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Great to play my first larp since coming back from Sweden, courtesy of Adam James, who’s running them every fortnight at the Proud Archivist, an amazing space in Hoxton.

It’s a great concept.  A dozen strangers suddenly find themselves in an eerie place, and they quickly realise they might be dead.  A sinister figure offers tickets to various otherworldly destinations, some desirable, some less so.  The characters must engage with their own mortality and with the unknown fates that await them.  The venue, as I’ve said, is pretty fantastic, and the execution by Adam, helped by Cat and Will, was excellent.

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Larp for larp’s sake


Just read The Larping that is not Larp by J Tuomas Harviainen, which was published in Think Larp, the book of KP 2011.

Harviainen’s argument is that larping is a bigger activity than larp, and that there are many sibling activities to larp that use larping.  For example, historical re-enactment, sado-masochistic role play, military exercises, and so on, all use larping as a part of what they do, but according to him they are not larps. Continue reading

Larps I’ve Been Discovering


Last night I spent yet another couple of hours trawling through larp documentation.  I feel like such a larp nerd, but I can’t help it!  I get all excited when I read about these and just want to play …

Limbo as staged in a vintage tram

Limbo … I’m excited to be playing this on Sunday with Adam James, who’s doing a great job of promoting larp in London.  The idea is that all the characters are hovering between life and death, in a kind of existential ‘waiting room’.  Some of them will die, I suppose, and some return to life.  Reminds me of Spirited Away.  This is just my idea of what fantasy ought to be about.  Continue reading

The therapy game


When I played the larp Beginning, I had the experience of being born as a blind creature in an unknown world.  I felt myself to be full of hope and innocent idealism, while with my ‘adult’ head I knew what dreadful disappointments were in store … I was very moved and cried for several minutes.

I found the experience cathartic and not at all disturbing – it was genuinely therapeutic.  I thought it would be interesting to sketch out some therapeutic techniques that are similar to larp.

This is the most obvious parallel.  It’s a technique that involves creating a little dramatic performance that illustrates a key crisis in a person’s life, or a conflict within them.  Usually several people are involved, to play Mum, Dad, and other characters involved in what happened to me when I was five; or alternatively they might represent “Strong Me”, “Weak Me”, “Fear” and so on. Continue reading

Bleedin’ Emotions!


In larp, the word ‘bleed’ means a leakage from the player’s real life to the character (‘bleed-in’), or vice versa, from the character to the player (‘bleed-out’).

What is ‘bleed’?  I would say it’s mainly about emotion.  Some thoughts too – but, as they say, our thoughts are what we think we are; our emotions are what we are.  Bleed is about feeling something. Continue reading