The first weekend of January was The Smoke — the London chamber larp festival now back to its regular calendar slot. It was the seventh iteration, and the second that I wasn’t involved in organizing. It was great! 150 or so people, 40 or so 3- or 4-hour larps — the current organizers are doing an amazing job.
The Last Cigarette
As usual, the Friday evening was just social — a chance to catch up with friends. Then on Saturday morning I ran The Last Cigarette, its first official outing. There were eight participants, and it seemed to go pretty well — I think maybe 6-8 is the sweet spot, although it should work ok for anything from 2 to 12. We had time for quite an extensive discussion afterwards, covering a whole bunch of thoughts that the larp had brought to people’s mind. I’ve put The Last Cigarette up on my website now, so it’ll be interesting to hear if anyone else runs it. I think it’s maybe particularly well suited to a slot-1 icebreaker kind of function, because of the relationships between participants that it induces.
In the afternoon I was in Innocence, designed by Nina Runa Essendrop, and run by her and Jonathan Goldsmith. It’d been a while since I’d had the chance to take part in one of Nina’s wonderful larps, so I was very glad of this opportunity. As ever, I’m in awe of the way that her meticulous workshop design prepares people for a deep and moving experience. My character wanted to keep hold of language, and so was unable to rejoin the circus, at the end — a poignant but appropriate fate. There was a bit of conversation afterwards about what the larp might have meant — I’m not sure that trying to find a fixed meaning is all that useful. It will have different means of expression to different people. But for me it was on one level kind of about larping itself, tbh.
The Saturday morning spot I was on safety duty, but in the afternoon I got to take part in Seaside Prison — designed by Kaisa Kangas, Martin Nielsen, and Mohamad Rabah, and run by Kaisa with workshopping from Martin, production from Essi Santala, and help and NPCing from Syksy Räsänen. This larp was written a few years ago now, but of course had extra salience because of the current war in Gaza. Seaside Prison is not ‘about’ Gaza in any literal sense — it is about people, family, humanity, and community — but it’s impossible to take part in it without awareness. It’s a highly structured larp, where initially very thin characters are developed and melded and carried together through a sequence of events and activities. So, it’s not abstract or difficult in that sense, although of course it is emotionally very tough.
The Smoke 2025?
I think The Smoke is already booked into the venue for next year, so do try and come along, if it sounds like your sort of thing — I’m biased of course, but I think it has a character that’s a bit different from other larp festivals, because of the wide mix of larp styles and international cultures present.