Commerce versus the dream. Craft versus inspiration. Single-minded vision versus compromised collaboration. Rising stars versus fading suns. Skinny-dipping versus keeping your clothes on… all are tensions that artists have grappled with down the ages. And in Lizzie Stark’s new game In Residency, you can take them on, chew them over, and spit out the pips. But not in the pool, please. That blocks the filter.
Getting away from it all
In Residency (run in London a couple of weeks ago by Hope Gilham) looks at a collection of artists staying at a luxurious artists’ colony (called ‘Brython’) over the summer. Their needs have been generously provided for; they have time and space to work during the day, and time and space to socialize in the evenings. Each player chooses a character skeleton from those provided, draws a trauma from the selection given, and decides what kind of art they make. Then four scenes of pretty much unstructured play broken up by brief interludes make up the game.
Structure and stricture
Lizzie describes In Residency as an American Freeform. The game is designed into that interesting area where larp, freeform and storygame overlap. It’s fully embodied, like a larp; it requires some direction and uses some meta-techniques, like a freeform; and it consciously builds in narrative drives, like a storygame. In the spirit of ‘if you’re standing up, it’s larp’ that’s how I mostly think of it. But work like In Residency helps to blur the boundaries further, which is all good, to my mind.
In Residency is written with a strong expectation of affairs and gossip about affairs – about who’s secretly seeing who, or who might be, or who ought to be, even if it’s not actually happening. It includes a meta-technique for sneaking off together. In our game it didn’t quite happen that way, as neither affairs nor gossip turned out not to play a very important part. We were mostly grappling with big questions of artistic worth, career trajectory, ‘selling out’, and painful or dangerous personal decisions. I expect that if we’d had longer, we’d have explored more interpersonal stuff, but as it was I felt the time allocated was pretty satisfactorily filled without too much need for that.