Blackbox cph III

So I moved to Copenhagen just in time for the blackbox festival. It was a perfect opportunity to reconnect with all local norpers and play some games.

There was a crazy rush when the ticket sales opened, I was at Larpvikend in Brno and as I tried to navigate the website games were sold out left and right, but I managed to grab tickets for two games: Beginning and The Last Hour.

Not including the immense joy of getting to see glorious friends from abroad who travelled here from far away to play, the festival itself was okay. It didn’t quite feel entirely together, people came and went for the games, but there wasn’t much time together except for the big party on saturday. I would have loved some sort of lounge or other place to hang out and talk larp during the event. Unfortunately we mostly spread out to various cafées in the city, so it was hard to meet new people outside of the games.

Beginning

by Nina Runa Essendrop

The first game was Nina’s latest nonverbal game, following up from White Death. Now with even more abstraction and limitation!

The play is about blind creatures evolving at the beginning of time, exploring the world and meeting each other. During most of the workshop and all of the game, the players are blindfolded and sense primarily through touch. The character briefs are entirely non-verbal, consisting of a motion and a picture.

My initial character brief reenacted. Filmed by Petter Karlsson
My initial character brief reenacted. Filmed by Petter Karlsson

The workshop mainly focussed on creating comfort with moving while blindfolded, exploring the motions of our characters and rehearsing the structured elements and techniques of the games. I found the workshopping a bit off-balanced at points, but there was some excellent feedback after the game and I know it will be super for later runs. 

The picture I chose for inspiring my character.
The picture I chose for inspiring my character. Photo by NOAA.

During play the organizers portrayed higher powers that would come in to interfere with or evolve the character-creatures. They had a special touch to make us follow their directions. It was interesting how easy it was to relinquish control of yourself and just let them lead you to a new place or posture after a few trial runs. The higher powers mainly came in during the act breaks where the creatures evolved to a new level, for me personally I would have liked the evolution to happen more slowly and individually, but I understand the design choices.

How I spent most of the game. Filmed by Petter Karlsson
How I spent most of the game. Filmed by Petter Karlsson

The game used a sort of tactile tape-larp scenography with a selection of random props that provided sensory input through touch, smell or sound thrown in to play with. I found it hard to relate to the props, I think it might have been less so with more organic objects rather than modern ones. Also it got quite messy from the stuff sprinkled on the floor. 

By far the most interesting part of the game was meeting, exploring and interacting with the other creatures. Due to the blindfolding you had no idea who the player was, but you could recognize different creatures by their textures and movements, as well as their unique bracelets given by the organizers. Some were friendly, others threatening and quite a few I probably never met during play.

Even after the game it didn’t matter who you had played directly with, it felt almost as an entirely collective affair. It was a very special mood, much the same unspoken comfort as white death provides, but even more total. It was very hard to relate what had happened during play as there were no words or interpretations that truly expressed how interesting it felt curling around some body or brushing past each other. A unique experience indeed.

The Last Hour

by Rasmus Teilmann and Mads Dehlholm Holst

I went home from the party early because I had signed up for this game on sunday morning. Most of the other players obviously didn’t. Out of seven only three of us showed up. Big angry at the lazy larpers! Especially since Mads had come from across the country just to run the game. We can do better than that.

But after we decided to go ahead after all, the game was really good. Rasmus and Mads have been working on it since the Summer School and it is a really tight design. It is classic blackbox-larp larp. Using pregame-workshopping, metatechniques, tape on the floor, sound effects and symbolic lighting. And it does it well.

The norper making his final statement to the court. Photo by Rasmus Teilmann.
The norper making his final statement to the court. Photo by Rasmus Teilmann.

The game is about the last hour before a group of freedom fighters are executed, with the play in their prison cell framing a serious of flashbacks and dream sequences initiated by the players themselves. You start with a simple character brief and expanded on it via hot-seat interviews and frozen moments before play. The game has very strong initial and ending rituals in the fiction that really get you started and ended with strong emotions. 

Last hour in the cell. Photo by Rasmuss Teilmann
Last hour in the cell. Photo by Rasmuss Teilmann

During play you do various flashbacks and dream sequences about your character’s life. It makes the play in the prison cell a very tense underplayed affair, which I thoroughly enjoy. Part of it was due to us only being three players and I am really happy we managed to show that the game works with this few participants and that the organizers are now planning to make a version aimed at fewer players. 

Flashback to the recruitment. Photo by Dominika Kováčová.
Flashback to the recruitment. Photo by Dominika Kováčová.

The game has a twist I will not describe here. Just say that while I normally prefer full disclosure, this game did it in a way I can respect and that really added to the experience. And which gave me a new kind of post-larp experience, bonus points for that.

Ready, aim... Photo by Rasmus Teilmann
Ready, aim… Photo by Rasmus Teilmann

All in all a very well made game that made use of a lot of different effects without losing focus or muddling the experience. I was surprised at how strongly it affected me.

Post-con

Afterwards I was left with a lot of new ideas and better versions of old ideas. Getting to play in the blackbox made some things clearer and the chance to air my thoughts with so many clever larpwrights and -players really moved things forward. So far I’m working on adapting a Mieville novel to the blackbox, a Nina-style touchy-movey larp, an autobiographical romantic freeform, a positive-experience prison larp and a soap-opera tape-larp with Dominika (“But, Rodrigo!…”)

And I have my copy of the Larpfactory book, which I hope to review here soon.

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