#kp2018 liveblog: Deconstructing Hamlet

A larp based on “The Marxist burlesque” interpretation of Hamlet.

Inside Hamlet is almost now a series of larps, a tradition of larps based on the tale of Hamlet, with a design that lurches from theft and plagiarism of design ideas from earlier incarnations and other larps.

This is as much of its story as I can scribble.

2000 for the public. “Our form has much to learn. We have glory to pass on. Larp can be art.” – was the feeling we had in 2000 – Inside Hamlet run one, and it was the National Theatre of Sweden got in touch… One shot, which play? Well, Hamlet. Obviously. 🙂 “A game about an inability to make up one’s mind until everything goes to shit. ” They toured in an inflatable castle lit with projected images. It kinda failed. Some performances didn’t sell out, some didn’t sell at all. But after massive design work, no impact on the public.

2002 was run for larpers, not the public. It has champagne. In-game sleeping, a reaction to “safe larp”. “What happens in Elisnore stays in Elsinore – an adult larp.” Acts, scenes, “Indexical decadance” – cooking in front of everyone. Eating, madness, and details he can’t mention. Obv. 25% of the stories are true. “We can do things for real.” Two runs, in a garage.

2015 “Why is no-one running Hamlet”? Block-buster format, in Elsinore, modern techniques. “We’ve haven’t played Hamlet inside here for 200 years….” “The swedes have stolen everything twice, it had an empty museum… It’s not accessible, you can’t sleep there”. Spelunking through the Internet for old characters, design ideas, but learning… New spatial design, new mechanics.

This run was the story of Hamlet in a Marxist re-reading, where Claudius is Ghadaffi or whoever was being overthrown at the time. “If the head is corrupt, the body will be corrupt too.” “Hamlet is the perfect Vampire larp….”

2017 was a development, different user experiences in the groups of play – on the basis of a theory it’s about the struggle of noble houses, where not only the noble houses exist, but whre everyone has fun – the oppressors and the oppressed. We had 14 weeks to do it. And then two days to invent a new Noble House, when we realised we had given away a few extra tickets… We focused on group relations – and gave groups of indiviuals who *were not* noble families a communal bond. Interesting – interactions *within* families looked too strong, and they’ll be dialing those down. Each noble house gets a tie to a “civilian” house, and a vested interest.

Useful – the closer to the power the more play you *just get*, so the more a group *has power*, the less *work* they’ll get. cf: military types, Stormguard. “I’d like to have an affair with a Stormguard…” Big change, big success. (Earlier run – we tried it as an occult plot. Didn’t work. That sacred cow got butchered.) (Super-interesting: They have a 45 minute questionnaire, they get well-considered feedback. And tweak. Godamnit, they test and iterate.)

Marxist reading of Hamlet – not very popular in theatre now, but the vintagey-burlesquely feeling fits into the decadent reading. ONe of the hundreds of readings – and we do a reading, because that’s what theatre does, and the Marxist reading is playable. early runs stuck to the text for the Houses, later houses were stolen from genre fiction – who had in turn stolen *their* ideas from Shakespeare – so the lineage of Houses come from the original. (Yes, they’ve got a house from the Lion King… Genius.) These houses seep into the tell of the main line of the story thematically, because they are already written with Hamlet in mind.

2002’s escalation mechanic – three acts, different rules – can’t die in the 1st, hidden violence in the 2nd act, every conflict ends in a death in Act 3. Cos it’s Hamlet, right? PvP for the blockbuster ticket larp. OK, that’s super clever. “3rd act is death, because Shakespeare”

Characters are designed to have an inner play, every character can be played in a corner, on your own. Each character has a “To be”, and a “Not to be” and you alternate, because that is what people do! And a list of vices… They become “self-playing pianos” – they *tell* players to do horrible shit, they give them the alibi. “Remember everyone here, is here to be treated dreadfully – you are the monsters for each other.”

There are Shakespeare scenes, with Shakespear’s text, which are directed – and a spotlight shines on the larpers who are now *actors*. A mechanic from 2002, a middle ground between play and theatre.

Calibration mechanics – to play intense and decadent, about you and I negotiating a level of play we’re comfortable with. Bullet-time consent. Opt-out of everything, so you *can* end up deep in. “Rotten” is an escalation word, “Pure” is that’s-about-right word, tapping out is a de-escalation technique. Demands trust, allows and negotiates flexibility. The text on the website is explicit about this – “For some people, this is a larp for them, they should go, others should not.”

The outside world is a war board, which is updated and responds. Everyone knows they will lose, but the warboard brings desperate action to avert the inevitable. Game masters track everything they do, and in 2017 – “an intention-based system” – and we’d respond with stories. It’s about losing control “Go in an do what needs to be done – two hours later, reports of mustard gas.” “We’ve taken care of the rioters” – you can imagine… “It really works.”

Coda: “Is this fort Blah-blah-blah, do you still hold?”
“This is Fortinbras, we’re doing quite well.”

Good god, they’ve got a UK-style off-game, and they’re excited about how it’s generating narrative intensity…

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