So, I had some money saved up and what I thought was a cheap trip to Norway, no reason not to visit the short-larp festival Grenselandet:
The festival itself was held at Chateau Neuf, a huge concrete block where the norwegian student’s association has bars, theatres and seminar rooms. All of us out of town participants stayed in the homes various Oslo larpers. It was a bit crowded at times, with so many participants at each place. And the offices of Fantasiforbundet got packed at the party on saturday. But it was part of the fun, what made this more of a festival than the usual convention. There were three slots of games, the signup for them was a bit confusing, but there was something to play at all times if you were willing to grab an open slot. I had all my slots filled from the start with three games:
My friend Asbjørn had his novella game along to the festival and I helped him by running it. It’s a two hour gm-less game about loneliness for four players, originally written for tabletop play, but adaptable to semi-larping.
After some warmup scenes to get everyone used to narrating and cutting, you get the characters handed out. One plays A, a lonely person, possibly the last person left in the world another A’s shadow, always egging on and wanting new things, the third plays the white cat, who hangs out with A, because he gets tuna and the last plays loneliness itself, which is lonely because there’s only A left.
You play three scenes, between each one of the players narrate a story from A’s life where A has no meaningful interaction with other people. The scenes consists of the four characters in A’s apartment just after the cat ate the last tuna, then at a dark and abandoned supermarked that has the very last can of tuna in the world and finally back in the apartment again.
It’s a very pretty little game, it delivers some solid feelings, experiences that you don’t usually play with in larp. The no-drama, no-story situation is interesting to play with.
My Mad, Mad Carousel
I got to play this finnish game saturday afternoon. It is a story of five people being treated for split personality. Each of them is played by two players that get different roles to portray, ten in total. You play in two rooms, representing a single therapy room in a mental hospital and the hallway between them is a limbo where you get directed in your play. You get to interact with eight of the other players, but not the one who plays the same person as you. The players of a character switch between the two rooms at various times, representing the other personality taking the person over. It gets quite messy when one side is a human puppy dog and the other an epic macho man or one of the personalities believes himself a superhero. Or when you make the switch yourself and find yourself in a completely new situation being blamed for things you don’t remember doing.
I played the second personality of a guy with a horrible past whose original personality was a control freak with violent outbursts, but who’d come up with me, a lazy slacker who didn’t care about anything other than doing just what he felt like right now. And who were married to another of the patients, a woman who was either an angry, spiteful mess or the most bossy mom you’d ever meet. My character adored the bossy side, since she’d always make sure he’d get what he wanted. It was weird being in this sort of four way marriage, unlike the other characters we knew that we were all crazy, but some of us liked it. It didn’t take long for the chaos to escalate into arguments, nervous meltdowns and physical assaults.
The ending was a bit confusing and forced, but it was hilarious to see each pair of players sitting in identical poses at the debrief. All in all it was a fun game, with some good moments of character play and interesting relations. It was actually quite hard to play a character that actively went against the drama and try to get everyone to chill out. And I loved the organizers playing nurses, such lovely uncanny ladies.
The last game I played was also a danish one, I’d hoped to play more foreign ones, but since I missed the first run of this I had to try.
The game is weird, very weird and beautifully abstract. It is wordless, you only have your body and sounds to communicate with, no words allowed. And your body is restricted like a puppet in some combination of locked joints, magnets or strings between bodyparts and other weird rules. You also get a prejudice with regards to the others and a postive relation to someone else. Luckily there’s some good warm up excercises to get your body language and movement going.
The play lasts for two very intense hours, the story is that you are pioneers trying to survive in the cold and frozen north, but one by one you die or give up and join the white ones, who live outside the light but can move freely, play and dance as they like. It has a powerful soundtrack of sad whiskey-voiced songs by Waits, Cave and Cash that really set the tone.
At first you have three rounds of symbolic props entering play. Balloons symbolizing hope, cups of sugar symbolizing survival and blank pages symbolizing faith. This really kicks the play into gear as you relate to the others and the symbols.
After that the music is interrupted four times by the sound of wind howling as snowstorms beset the humans, it is in these that the white ones appear and start luring the humans to join them. In the end, noone is left.
It was quite hard to make the usual kind of sense out of the play, the interactions were spontaneous and changing from moment to moment, the overall story merely a framework for the fascinating interpersonal relations developing. You really got into the wordless physicality of it, when we debriefed it took a long time before anyone remembered how to use words and even longer to use them on the thing we’d just done together.
If I’d have to try and piece out a story from my experience, I’d say I played an insecure young man trying to appear stronger than he felt. He was scared of, but fascinated with the two female players. When things started getting tight around the appearance of the props, he became angry and vengeful with anyone who mistreated them or his friends. So vengeful that he’d throw the sugar on the ground or tear up another’s belief just to return spite. His anger sustained him until he was the last survivor along with a girl helpless without others, but his strength failed and she pushed him out into the darkness to be taken by the white ones, while they closed in for her. And then all was dark and only the white ones were left dancing and capering.
There were some things with the festival that kept it from being a all good though. One of the major things for me is how expensive Norway is, even though the festival and sleeping arrangements were free and the travel cheap, just buying food and drink is hideously expensive. And being a difficult sleeper, the accomodations cost me a lot of energy.
Still, it was a great opportunity to try new games from other countries, play with new people and see their styles of roleplay. Quite an inspirational experience. And the socializing was a good chance to get to know old friends and new, plus hear of the upcoming games and events. Grenselandet fills in an empty area in the international larp calendar, filling the space between the international larps of summer and Knutepunkt in spring. Fun and games to keep the spirits high through the dark nordic winters.