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. Continue reading


Running my first larp


Next week I’ve got the opportunity to put on a workshop at my counselling summer school. I decided to run a larp.

I’ve chosen ‘New Voices in Art’ by Edland, Falch and Rognli.  This is a larp in which the characters are artists at the preview of the show of the title, each with their own secret fears and hopes about their work.  The metatechnique ‘ping the glass’ allows these inner thoughts to be revealed, as characters give monologues that can be heard by the other players, though not by their characters.

The main reason I wanted to run this larp is that as our class graduates after this summer school, we will all go our separate ways.  Most will be looking to set up in private practice as therapists.  Like the artists in the larp, we’re at a crossroads.  I’m hoping that the larp will be a way to explore the future imaginatively and emotionally, without making that point too obviously.

Shoshana Kessock – Ethical Content Management and the Freedom to Create


Shoshana Kessock distinguishes between the idea of ‘safe’ and ‘responsible’ spaces. For me, this is really useful. Game designers might do everything possible to make a larp ‘safe’, but if one or more of the players behave irresponsibly, then it’s going to be unsafe.

I’m interested that women seem to be producing most of the thoughtful material on this subject at the moment – as well as Shoshana, I’m thinking of Sarah Lynne Bowman and Johanna Koljonen.

A larp is an environment co-created by all of the participants. It’s not an ‘experience engine’, because the most important parts of the machine are human beings. How can we foster a responsible space? Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

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