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.
Over the next few months preparations will be in full swing for our revival of The Church of the Sturdy Virgin, the brilliant interactive funeral show first presented by the Dank Parish. We're going to be developing lots of new material for this version of the show. New rituals, new characters, new uses for our sacred festival church. We're going to be bringing a whole host of new people and ideas on board for what promises to be the biggest and strangest funeral show yet. And we will let you updated every step of the way.
In the meantime, we thought we'd dip into the archives, to give you a taste of what's to come. Allow us to set the scene. It is September, 2012. We are at the end of a long and jam packed summer, a summer that began with our presentation of The Number of the Beast, and ends here, at Bestival, our third and last funeral festival of the summer. Ah, Bestival. Situated on the glorious Isle of Wight, the massive Bestival is our favourite festival yet. The weather is wonderful. There is no mud. Stevie Wonder is playing. The Church itself has been fine-tuned and we have all found a perfect place within it.
Nigel is outside the church, tidying our graveyard, when a young lady approaches him. She is a reporter, she reveals, and wonders if she can ask a few questions about the work we do at the Parish. Nigel answers her questions as best he can; he is drunk from the sun and the large bag of perry he's been swigging from since he awoke. He manages to maintain some sense of dignity, and the reporter even attends our next funeral. The result is this lovely, if bemused, write-up on yoppul.co.uk.
Bestival was a strange and fantastically entertaining festival to be a part of. We gave impromptu funerals to small children, buried most of the saps that went next door to get married, and we had an absolute ball watching Chas & Dave. Let's hope this summer holds even more joy and excitement in store.