The last hours of the Harem
“Harem Son Saat — The last hours of the Harem” is a progressive Romanesque larp designed by Muriel Algayres. This 24h larp lays out a setting for players to explore a number of fascinating topics: gender segregation, cultural clashes between Western European Christian societies and the Eastern Mediterranean Islam.
The whole game is a waking for the Ottoman Empire. It’s the end of the world as everyone in the Sultanate knows it. And it’s the perfect excuse to explore the brutality and fascinating nature of this dying community.
The experience was craftily laid out enabling players to have a meaningful journey at 3 different levels:
- Global (The World): the cultural richness of the setup and the thorough documentation work of the author provides a rich exoticist world for the players.
- Local (The Ecosystem): the exploration of sexual and class segregation is at the core of this game. These topics are treated with deep respect and brutality. The relationships between characters is vibrant and complex, and everyone´s heart pushes towards the chasm in one way or another.
- Individual: the characters are deep and sound, with more than a dozen pages of individual background and poetry. In this game everyone has the means to build an unique and rich personal narrative.
Oh, la francophonie!
Arguably, globalization has deemed Nordic LARP the most influential movement in the evolution of participatory dramatic arts in the early XXI Century. Experimentation, formal criticism and academic study have nurtured a robust community of designers, producers and players. And the English savviness of Scandinavians has allowed Southern European and Northamerican creators to evolve rapidly.
Meanwhile in France… The Romanesque (larp) genre has evolved over more than 20 years as a French unique and artistic style exploring emotionally intense narratives, with rich historical inspiration and a strong literary ambitions.
Harem is an innovative larp that builds upon the Romanesque tradition and widens the genre by building its own meta-techniques. Thus creating a bridge between the French and Nordic scenes.
Players and language
Larp as a co-creational art depends heavily on the skill of its players, and luckily Muriel’s contribution to the French and International larp scene granted us a full cast of generous and skilled players.
The potential language barrier was integrated in the design following the inspiration set by “Terre Spezate’s Rebels of the Mountain” (Ribelli della Montagna — 2015) and indirectly by “Somnia’s Robota”. And the balance between monolingual and multilingual characters made it work any friction.
This language aware design removed from the scenario all the frustration, isolation and plot out-casting inherent to language neutral games.
Harem is designed with half day pre-game workshop. These workshops are not simple energizing, ice-breaking and warm up exercises. Each of the activities is set to create a common language and understanding of the oppression, hierarchy dynamics and a sense of reality of the fictional scenario.
During the game, the Prayer Room served also as a blackbox. With guided meta scenes and custom made audiovisual material, the players can use the black-box to dive into their characters psyche and leverage on the mysticism and spirituality inherent to the scenario.
The author and the co-organizers
Muriel Algayres’ previous French larps has been craftily designed and have enjoyed positive critics and demand among French players. Dreams of Absent (Reves d’Absinthe) has ran 8 times since it’s premiere in 2011.
As an educator she has also created role-playing scenarios to foster experiential learning of both English language and History. Some of these games are available here.
The production of this game was possible thanks to the generous support of Association Rôle (fr). Volunteers taking care of different practicalities of the event and supporting Muriel with translations, logistics, the most delightful catering and a great photographic documentation.
Ephemeral Arts and The Future of the Harem
As an ephemeral art, larp is doomed to have a very small reach. Living in the memories of players and media documentation of the event, that has mostly recreational and personal meaning.
Fortunately, Muriel builds her scenarios to be reused and re-run. So we can expect new runs in the near future and a larp book with everything we need to run it on our own at some point in 2017. For more information, follow Harem’s Facebook page.
This event will also endure the test of time thanks to the beautiful work of Joram Photographer and the poetry and letters written during this literary inspiring game.