The first in a series of posts taking a look at some of the exciting things going on outside the 6FootStories world.
On Saturday 29th March I attended a workshop at the wonderful Artsadmin HQ at Toynbee Studios. I arrived with an open mind, as I usually do for these sorts of things, but I had few expectations. Little did I know that I was about to start a tragic journey that would end with me becoming an alcoholic, father to two unwanted daughters, and - oh horror! - Belgian.
Let us begin at the beginning, for it is a very good place to start. I had seen a post for an upcoming workshop on “larping” at Artsadmin and was intrigued. I had never heard of larping before, and I’m always keen to discover new ideas and artforms, and so I signed myself up for it straightaway. I mentioned larping to a friend and his eyes lit up.
“Oh yes,” he said, “That’s where you get to dress up as knights and monsters and act out Dungeons and Dragons!”
Ah. It appeared I had made a grave error. But no! LARP, or Live Action Roleplay is a wide and varied form of participatory entertainment, not limited to acting out fantasy games, as our esteemed host Adam James elucidated to us when we arrived at the studio.
LARP, or larping, does have its origins in the table-top role-playing games of yesteryear. But it also has its roots in psycho-drama, long-form improvisation, therapy, and military simulations, and so today it is a complex and fascinating pastime, with a great many variants. Players meet, adopt characters, and then play out scenes in fictional worlds, or games. The play is facilitated by a gamesmaster, who helps manipulate the action towards its conclusion.
In the UK, LARP leans more towards the fantasy element. You can be part of a large-scale zombie apocalypse, complete with Nerf guns, or perhaps you’d like to enact a Game of Thrones-style battle in the woods. In Scandinavia, larping has taken a more avant-garde turn, with the emphasis less on dressing up in silly costumes and pretending to kill each other, and more on experimentation with the human experience. Adam James has spent the last year travelling the world and experiencing larping in all its forms, and it was this "arthaus" Nordic larping that he had brought with him to Toynbee studios, along with some of his Scandinavian friends.
So, back to the workshop. After Adam had explained the rudiments of LARP to the group, he took us through a quick character devising session. This was just to give us a taste of how quickly one can choose a setting and develop characters and relationships for it. Our setting was a Hollywood diner, and within a few minutes I had become the nouvea-riche Italian owner of the establishment, Arturo, and a vivid world had been created out of thin air. We could have spent all day working on characters and relationships, and the exercises and games Adam used could be applied to pretty much any theatrical endeavour, and I shall definitely be stealing, ahem, borrowing some of this work in the future.
After lunch the real games began. We were split in half – one group would play “The White Death”, an abstract LARP about a group of travellers who set out for the mountains to create a new society, and the other half would play “Sarabande”, a LARP set in a café in Montmartre in the 1890s – this was to be my story.