Crewing The Quota: Guest post by Dani Mines.

Another view from the crew: Dani Mines this time.

“A LRP set in a detention centre sat on the border between England and Wales for those trying to leave England. There were attendees from 12 countries, and 70 participants overall.”

“I’m going to ramble about my roles a bit. Starting from the more minor and leading into the main bulk of my time. I also helped with Black Box experiences, and will ramble a little about those at the end… This will be long… I make no apologies.

‘Jenny’ – The Detainee
I picked up Jenny to chat to people after the crew team had stopped running things out on the Thursday and Friday evenings. Originally just a chance to relax a little, but even this small role delivered something. Letting the others know there were other blocks in this centre, and that J Wing was apparently a more idyllic as it didn’t have the political prisoners and the guards were more relaxed about contraband such as chocolate… it made the detainees jealous. It was weird to even have an “R&R character” make an impact.

S. Redwood – The Bored Guard
I didn’t play Redwood very much, only to plug a few gaps. But I made Redwood the chronically bored. Entirely over it, refusing to engage with anyone, and has probably seen more than a few Quota processes. Redwood spent the whole of the drama class’ audition for Reed playing on her phone, entirely unbothered by the effort and care they’d put into their work. She was lazy in late-night bag searches because she just wanted to go home, and she was furious she had to stay late because of the political prisoners being removed from the facility. While there were small acts of kindness, for the most part she was just… done. Emotionally checked out. Which made the final part of the Quota process difficult as I could not stop the tears from coming and had to off-game myself.

Rachel Jenks – The Psychologist
“How did that make you feel?”
That was my only real guidance going into the game with the NPC who would conduct the psychological evaluations of the detainees. This role hit quite close to home, for those of you who don’t know, I work as a Mental Health Coordinator for the London Fire Brigade. The bulk of my job is to conduct evaluations, write reports on incidents that may require follow-ups by therapists, and cover counselling sessions on occasion.
As much as I originally tried to be the cold and uncaring version of myself in the role, it just didn’t work. So I changed it up. I formed a list of the basic questions I would ask in a formal evaluation, and when those questions were complete I would put my pen down and move the clipboard away so we could just… talk. Being able to assure the person sitting opposite me that we were in a confidential space made a big difference to what was being said.
She became an optimistic person, assuring some of the detainees that on paper there was no reason why they wouldn’t get through the process (which made it all the more painful when so many of them didn’t…)
I’m glad I changed her, it made it easier to deal with the emotions running. Especially when faced with a particularly hard-hitting and close-to-the-bone session, which did impact my own headspace quite badly… not sure if I’ll go into detail on that here.

In addition to these characters I also helped out Helly in running the ‘Black Box’ experiences, a chance for attendees to play out memories, possible futures, or dreams. They were also some of the most intense pieces of roleplay. But the ones that had me weeping outside the room were the ones that were bittersweet or full of hope and argh… I can’t even start on those or I’ll be here all day!

So yes… Post 1 in my unpacking of Quota. I may do another with my highlights so it’s not all doom and gloom!

A genuinely moving event.”

Post 2

“I think I’m not going to write much more about Quota now, I think I’m happy where I’m at with it, and once I’ve processed the one thing that’s caused some headspace-issues I should be back to normal.

So here I’m going to post some highlights. Some nice, some awful, some heartbreaking.

[Black box] – Lydia and Kris (two participants) did a flashback scene from when they were a couple. The scene was simple. It was the moment they realised that while they love each other, it simply wasn’t enough due to the difference in beliefs. It was so poignant and beautiful and so utterly real.

[Guard] – Watching Oli Facey’s horrible guard Hart be fired from the prison and escorted out of the building. It was a wonderful moment of hope as the detainees cheered and celebrated this small victory over the people who were oppressing them.

[Psychologist] – All the interactions I had with women. This game was full of strong women, staring down some of the worst of humanity. Loved it. Being able to laugh with them too was nice. Forever glad I became the nice authority who genuinely did want to help.

[Guard] – Watching some of the detainees audition for the Welsh Theatre Society. They’d been given a play overnight and had chosen a passage to perform. Just the sheer enthusiasm and hope… It was really something. And it hurt when they were all rejected.

[Psychologist] – The interview with the leader of the Centre’s Gang. A chronic abuser of women, a dealer, a genuinely awful human being. He sat across from me and tried to charm me. It was fantastic, a proper fencing match of words. I came out of this saying that the player was either a really good actor, or a genuine sociopath (the former it turns out!). It was utterly brilliant and left my skin crawling.

[Guard] – The end, when the Quota was filled. The despair as the four being sent back to England were announced, the joy as the four who’d made it celebrated, and the crushing disappointment as the others realised they were stuck there. There were so many tears, particularly from James the heroin addict being sent back to England, where he would almost certainly die on the streets. I had to break character to cry, it was just so painful.

[Psychologist] – Every interview. Each one brought something special. Each one was a story from a person, not a character. Each one was a chance to inject some hope into an otherwise bleak and horrible tale. Watching so many good and genuine people not make it through to Wales broke me a little.

[Black Box] – Every scene really. From bittersweet to utterly harrowing. Exploring the very worst of humanity was something fascinating even as I recoiled a little from it.

There are so many scenes that I could mention, but these really stuck out to me. Just… wonderful roleplay. Wonderful participants. A bleak and harrowing tale but also full of hope. Just… argh. I would love to play something like this sometime.”

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