Larping is different from theatre in that there is no audience. Everyone creates the experience together.
When you arrive on location, you do so and check in as yourself, and participate in the
introductory workshops as yourself (even though you will already be mostly dressed as your character).
At this out-of-character workshop is when we practice the interaction mechanics together, and refresh our knowledge of Inside Hamlet’s fictional world. The workshop will also give you an opportunity to get a feel for who your co-players are before you all step into character, and a chance to put a face to the name of your closest fictional contacts.
"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2
Being in Character
During the Acts, when the playing has started and we are inside the fiction, you will be
portraying a character at all times. You will move, speak, act and often feel like your character would. Your co-players – portraying your character’s friends, family and foes – will also treat you as your character at all times.
This makes role-playing surprisingly easy. You’re not alone in maintaining your fictional
character: everyone around you is helping to keep up the illusion that you are a conniving countess, or a naïve country boy desperately out of his depth.
During the first ten or twenty minutes of play, it is common to feel stagey and unnatural. But as the fictional society comes alive around you, acting like your character will feel increasingly automatic.
While we play, you do not have to be physically or socially active all the time. Sitting down sometimes to quietly enjoy the world (or brood!) from your character’s perspective is completely valid too. But since you are still “on stage”, you are not allowed to perform any outwardly out of character actions, like using a mobile phone. Indeed, you should not bring any visibly out-of-fiction objects into play; photography is also not permitted.
If you need a break from the fiction, feel overwhelmed or bored, or would like to discuss your play experience with someone out of character, you are always welcome to step into the “off game” or out-of-character room in an adjoining space. There you can have a breather and perhaps consider a new direction for your play experience before rejoining the fiction.
Playing Style and Story
Your character might be grand and flamboyant, or behave very low-key and normal-seeming. When you choose your playing style, keep in mind that the experience is very long. Keeping up grand gestures for hours at an end is exhausting; and loud and shouty characters are tiresome for others to interact with.
If you’re new to this form, it’s a good idea not to make your character expression too
complicated. Maybe add some gestures or a different way of walking to how you normally behave, or focus on one or two traits. Perhaps your character is unerringly polite. Perhaps they always need to tell someone else how they are feeling. Just one quality like that can help you perform the character consistently – and give you the choice of later changing the character’s personality in a visible way.
All the characters at the court of Claudius will go on a difficult journey during the three acts, and since the character is your interface to the story, the central question of the plot for each of you will be how this experience is changing the character you’re portraying.
A naive character might become bitter, a pompous character might learn a lesson in humility, a flighty character might find a serious side, a cruel character might find a fleeting compassionate side to herself and grasp for it but end up dragged down by her past choices.
Your character’s inner journey might be reflected in how they act. Perhaps you choose to make it visible in some small and subtle way. Perhaps they now start acting contrary to how they did before.
Or they might still be outwardly the same while you, inside their skin, now know that they feel very differently about what’s going on around them.
Generally speaking, very introverted, secretive or shy characters are difficult to play, because their interactions with others are more limited. If you want to make your character shy and quiet (perhaps because you yourself are shy and quiet), think in advance of reasons for them to approach others.
If you’re worried about your character becoming socially isolated, tell your closest co-players before play starts. This will give them the opportunity to include you in their plans even if your character is not always demanding their attention.
Larp is not, strictly speaking, performed. It is played out like life is played out: some actions and events are big and visible, others private, yet others entirely internal. Some meaningful moments are epic, but most are tiny and fleeting.
The majority of your play experience will be about what it felt like to you to (pretend to) be that fictional character in their fictional situation. In larp, we talk about a “first-person audience”. You are the only audience of your own experience. No-one else is watching you – they see only their character, and they as players are experiencing a completely different story, from their character’s perspective.
At times, your audience experience will be about forgetting yourself, and ending up in a flow state where you no longer need to actively reflect on what your character might do or say. At other times, you might feel yourself very present inside the player. You might be reflecting on how different your character’s morals are from yours. You might be bored or feel disconnected for a while. When that happens, ask yourself whether it is you or your character who is bored or feels isolated. If it is your character, this might be an interesting emotion to pursue for a while.
If it is you who are unhappy, you always have the choice of stepping outside the fiction and going to the out of character room for a chat or a quiet break. Or you might choose a new direction for your character.
This larp has a structure with Acts, and inside the Acts there are some scenes or situations, like a party, or the lit de parade of Ophelia, which offer social cues as to what to do or what kind of behaviour would make sense at that moment.
Beyond this structure there are no “events” to chase, no “plot” to find or mystery to solve. Where you are is where your story is. If that is not currently interesting, you change the situation. Not by moving to another place in the hopes of “finding” a story, but through changing your character’s actions to make a story.
The easiest way to make story is to strike up conversations with other characters (always as your character, of course). You can pursue your character’s goals as described in your
character description. You can talk to your friends and allies to see whether they need help with anything, or have something going on. You can place your character in harm’s way or let them stick their nose where it doesn’t belong.
No one except you can say which actions and choices are logical for your character. Let your character take a path that is interesting to you as a player. When in doubt, play for tragedy. If it gets too dark, look for a glimmer of hope.