Before and After Silence

The Tin Tabernacle was the perfect venue for a larp based on silence

The Tin Tabernacle was the perfect venue for a larp based on silence

Yesterday was the first time I’d run a larp properly, and I must say that I couldn’t be happier with how it went.

Before and After Silence 

This larp was written by Fredrik Hossmann, who co-designed with Matthijs Holter, and has been run several times since its creation in April 2012. You can find details here, and in the Larps from the Factory book.

This is quite an unusual and innovative larp, as it’s played almost completely in silence.  Each of the characters is inhabiting a different reality or ‘setting’.  For example, one of them might be the captain of a ship at sea, another a prostitute on a street corner, a third a soul looking for its parents, and so on. Each character sees the others through this setting.

It could be said that Before and After Silence is a meta-larp, a larp about role-playing, making evident and explicit things that are inherent in the form. Larps can appear from the outside to be psychological experiments put on by the organisers, but the reality is that they are meaningless without reference to the subjective experience of the participants. Each character exists within their own world, or diegesis, within a larp. Accounts of larps vary in terms of how much they acknowledge this truth. But Before and After Silence makes this the whole point of the action.  Yesterday we had not one but fifteen completely separate narratives happening simultaneously, and what was remarkable was that it was still possible to interact with each other. That raises fascinating questions about the human condition.

Workshop, action, debrief

At Knudepunkt in two weeks I will be talking on “The Non-Brief Debrief”, arguing that the debrief should be seen as an integral part of the larp, and not as an optional extra. I will argue this not for safety reasons, but because a full debrief is a wonderful part of the whole experience, and essential to give players the chance to ground themselves back into normality.  Before running the larp, I chatted with Fredrik on Facebook and he said, ‘The debrief of “before and after silence” is for me what makes the game complete. It connects the separate actions and characters and makes it into a whole.’

I will write more on this topic in another post, but I want to report on how this debrief went. We followed what Eirik Fatland describes as best practice for intense larps (although this was not very intense), which is to say we first talked in pairs, then in small groups of five, and finally in the large circle each person spoke about their character’s setting. This was the minimum that I would consider necessary to get the most from this larp, because otherwise there was no opportunity to understand the others’ settings.

I then called for three minutes of silence in which each player was invited to reflect on the significance of the larp (“how you larp is, to some extent, how you live”); and also to decide what they wanted to leave behind (for example, being a rape victim), and what to take with them.

Following this I encouraged players to de-role informally with anyone they had strong interactions with during the larp.

Feedback was good on this process, and there were comments such as “often larps cut out the debrief to make more space for play, but I feel like there should more time for debrief.”

The Players

The profile of players was rather different to the typical Nordic larp. Previously in this country larp has mainly involved people from a role playing games background, and more recently by artists. These were represented, but our participants also included people from theatre, teaching, dance, shamanism, men’s groups, and psychotherapy. Another difference was age: the youngest players were around 35 and the oldest in their 50s.

I feel that there is an opportunity here to create a distinctive UK / British Isles variety of larp that will include older people and those interested in what might broadly be called personal development. Anyone who was present will attest to the deeply engaged way that everyone entered into the larp. Although nine out of the fifteen were attending their first larp, I felt there was less ‘holding back’ in this larp than in any other I’ve so far taken part in.

Grey larp is coming!


6 thoughts on “Before and After Silence

  1. It was great! Thank you for organizing and running, Kevin. I’ve written about it on my own blog (which it won’t let me link here for some reason, but I think if you click my name you should get taken there).

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