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.
For me the experience was very enjoyable, without ever hitting the heights. By that, I mean the exhilarating rush of character immersion. I had moments here and there, but no more than that. It’s a very conversational larp; many of the characters developed during the course of the game, but others remained a little inhibited. The exercises recommended in the larp script were all very physical. There was opportunity for private thought about character, but we didn’t practice talking about our character to others, which was the main activity in actual play. So maybe little breakout groups to do that would have been good.
I decided to play a character different to myself – Alex, a gay Albanian man who had missed his chance to go to study film in LA, while his best friend and lover, less talented but more charismatic, got the scholarship. Alex has since been struggling as a documentary maker, and with his feelings at being left behind. It’s funny the things that are difficult: I spent five minutes trying to name my two Scotch terriers (Peanut and Crackers, since you asked).
You didn’t ask? Hmm … funny that, not many people in limbo were interested in hearing Alex’s story, either – passed over in the afterlife, as in his real life. Poor Alex. I now regret not playing him very camp, which would have been fun.
It occurred to me at one point that the characters seemed to go through the classic ‘stages of grief’ as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Towards the end, there was a sort of ‘balloon debate’ to discuss who should have a chance to go back to life, which seemed to me a classic attempt to ‘bargain’ with death. Towards the end, the feelings deepened and darkened, and my character began to contemplate whether the love he had failed to find in life might be found in his version of the afterlife. At this moment, it felt as though the larp was sinking in with all of us – just before it ended.
Which was so right – we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to complete everything before we die.
One small issue with the larp script is the use of a Coleridge poem, Limbo. It’s probably the only poem on that subject in the English language, but it is a pretty lousy, half hearted effort. The extract that is in the larp script ends randomly, half way through a sentence, which shows, I suppose, that nobody really enjoys reading the poem. There must be something in Dante that would work better. Or Homer?
Maybe the most exciting thing, other than the chance to larp, was meeting so many enthusiastic people. A small but very promising community is forming in London. I floated the idea of running Club Felis, set in a nightclub for cats, and there was an immediate buzz of interest. So it feels like we need to get it on.