Blackbox CPH

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So I’ve just got back from Blackbox Copenhagen … some preliminary thoughts.

Inside Me, Outside Me

This was the first game I played, organised by a crew of black box enthusiasts including my sister Carla. There were about 12 players, and a roughly equal number of performers/NPCs, although the distinction quickly broke down.  Afterwards I learned that the NPCs were kind of robots, that initially had to be activated by different triggers; then spent the second act ‘learning’ things from us; and in the third were directing us. Not much of that was evident to me, although it didn’t matter. I particularly enjoyed the second act, where I did some contact impro with Nina and a guy that had never larped in his life, and also tried to teach Gustav’s character about emotions (at some point I started to doubt that I knew what I was talking about).

The Unnoticed

This was a rock gig larp, played in the upstairs bar. My character was one of two government agents, attempting to infiltrate an underground movement. The music was good, the in-game drugs (Gummy Bears!) excellent, and I had a good dance and some enjoyable interactions. I did feel there needed to be more experienced larpers involved, particularly to help several beginners. Freya and I ‘won’ the larp, both of us sneaky spies being selected by the Unseen at the end. Yeah, yeah, “play to lose”.  But always good to win.

Innocence

This was the third larp I’d played by Nina Rune Essendrop, after Beginning and White Death.  I think it’s my second favourite behind Beginning, which is still my top larp experience.  We played innocent clowns (which were kind of like toddlers or small animals, clumsy and sweet) who had been left behind by the circus.  Nina arrived in her role as the Salesman, offering us things like language and elegance in exchange for our clownish qualities. We had the option to swap them back before the end, but if we didn’t, the Salesman would take our clown noses and lead us off into the darkness. Wonderfully original, moving, exhausting. I loved playing with Kristoffer Thuroe and Simon Steen Hansen, who became my clown buddies for the game, exploring the delicate dynamics of the number three – always one left out.

Things We Left Behind

Dominika Kovacova and myself played this after Innocence, and I think we carried on our clowning, becoming a very sweet brother and sister in a lovely family. As the game progressed we found ourselves in a war zone, questioning whether we could afford to hold on to our family values. The other family in the game were quickly fractured, and ended up stealing our food, but we managed to hold on to something.  It was very moving, and I still want the gentle Jakob to be my actual Dad, and I liked the dynamic between drawing and playing. This larp was by Anna Emilie Groth and Danny Meyer Wilson, although Danny had to finish it himself when she suffered a concussion ten days ago.

Blackbox CPH as an event

I was expecting something more like Knutpunkt, but should have realised that blackbox is much more of a minority interest.  Still, I hoped for more presence from the larp community as a whole, for example at the Saturday night party. Although the games were great, and it was excellently curated, my experience felt a bit disjointed at times.

There were some people there who had never experienced larp, which was good to see. The venue was perfect for the purpose, with various stages and workshop rooms, and I enjoyed a blissful nap on a quiet sofa in the bar on Saturday afternoon.

Equally important to me was the opportunity to reconnect with some people I’d met before and to meet some new ones. Sunday was spent lazing about in Peter Munthe-Kaas’s house, talking larp, Harry Potter, Buddhism and town planning … which was just about perfect.

What Next?

First off I’m finishing the paper I’ve been writing on larp and psychotherapy, ‘The Therapy Game’, for the WyrdCon 2015 book, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman.  This has been taking up so much of my larp energies that I’ve not had time to blog on here at all.

I’m pretty determined to come back to Denmark in February for Knudepunkt 2015. I’d like to present something about the research I’ve been doing for the paper.

I’m also planning to play a couple of multi-day larps. I’m excited by the artist Matt Stokes’s larp-ish event The Stone Frigate which is being played in England near the Scottish Border next April, and also by the rumour of a re-run of the legendary AIDS larp Just A Little Loving, again in Copenhagen.

And I want to get started on one or two little larp projects of my own … we need larp in the UK.

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