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 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
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.
… 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.
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.
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
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