Till Death do us Part – A Palestinian-Nordic larp project

Till Death Do Us Part - Wedding picture
The larp Till Death Do Us Part was organized in August in Birzeit Palestine. It was an amazing experience and through thoughtfully portraying Arabic and Nordic cultures during a wedding celebration. And as it was live role-playing I will now point out that this was not a real wedding.

As I wrote in the post Visiting Palestine about the week in Jerusalem and the West bank in August, the trip was really special and here I will try to summarize the actual larp Till Death do us Part. With Johannes I also put together this video about the larp. I would have wanted more views about the project, especially from the Palestians but unfortunately I realized that to late so it is mainly interviews with Nordic players.

“Larp can change the world, because it lets people understand that humans under pressure may act differently than in the normal life, when you’re safe.”
Norwegian Minister of International Development,
Heikki Holmås 2012-03-27

The larp (find out more about nordic larp culture here) was organized by Peace & Freedom Youth Forum in Ramallah, Palestine in cooperation with people from Fantasiforbundet in Oslo. The organizers gathered 35 players from Palestine, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Story

The main plot was a story about the Palestinian girl Kholoud and the Norwegian boy Harald. The couple had met in Norway and were now living in Palestine, where they were to get married over the course of a weekend. As friends and family for both bride and groom ended up at the wedding location, the larp started.

Even though the larp featured two main figures, I did not feel like the other characters were extras. Even though the wedding was in focus, loads of other parallel stories existed as well within the families and the circles of friends, from small, slow-paced intrigues to big, heart-breaking conflicts.

Big themes in the larp were love, friendship, and growing up.

An interesting note and choice of the organizers was to not put focus on the occupation. Instead, it existed in the background, as it does in the life of every Palestinian, but this was not a larp about the occupation. It was a larp about the meeting of cultures.

Palestine landscape

Meet-up outside Birzeit the evening before the workshop day in a beautiful sunset.
Photo: Johannes Axner

Game setup

Arrival party
On Thursday evening, the Nordic players arrived at the site and attended a party hosted by the Palestinan participants. This was a great thing to do and people started to make new friends early on.

Workshop day & test larp
Friday was a workshop day and I was really impressed that a lot of effort was put into workshops. The thing we did the most was playing scenes with our core groups and also with the circle of friends that our characters had. This made us flesh out our characters and create loads of great relationships to play upon during the larp. We also participated in several drama exercises, which generally were of very good quality.

In the evening we also did what the organizers called a “test run” of the larp. This meant that for a couple of hours, we played the wedding party to try out our characters and relationships with the others. What we had just played would not be remembered in the actual game. Also, if something didn’t fit well, you could change that for the “real larp.” As an example, I felt that I played my character too ignorant and a bit too stupid, so I could now change that. Great method.

Game day 1 – Bachelor & Henna party
On Saturday, the larp started after breakfast and some drama exercises. The players started going into play as they arrived at the wedding. The two families started to mingle and soon, we were all separated by gender, as the men were to celebrate the bachelor party and the women the Henna party. As the Henna party was outside of my reach except for a short peek, I only participated in Harald’s bachelor party. This was a nice mix of cultures as the Arabic version contained a lot of singing and traditions and the Nordic one very often is about humiliating the groom. The party ended up really successful; a peak moment was, of course, singing and hand clapping in the Turkish bath while Harald got a back-rub. The steamy air was filled with a fantastic amount of laughter and joy.

Game day 2 – Wedding day
This day was mainly about getting everything and everyone in order for the wedding. A Palestinian tradition of the Groom shower, which, in this version, consisted of Harald being washed with a hose and the shaved with the shaving foam in his shoe (!) – yes, for real. Some big conflicts erupted during lunch, but luckily, things were saved and calmed down the moment that Harald rode a white horse and came to pick up his bride.

The wedding party then continued for a while that night and, then, the larp ended. After a really short and good exercise, we left our characters and continued as ourselves with the Norwegian tradition of After-laiv (after-larp-party).

Till Death Do Us Part - Party

The larp Till Death Do us Part had loads of great dancing and singing. Both during the game and the after-party.

Dramaturgical game mechanics (meta-techniques)

Black-box
A black box is a space that is used play out scenes to enrich the stories of the characters beyond the time and space of the “main” larp. As an example I could go to the black box with the player who played my father in the larp. We could in the black box play a scene about when my character was a kid growing up. It could be used to play out a memory, but also a scene from an alternate future or a dream. The black box room was used a lot during the larp by almost everyone and for me it was a great addition to this game.

Read more about black box-usage in the Nordic larp wiki.

Hand-kissing
Another technique was “Hand-kissing” that was invented first for the Norwegian larp Klassefesten. If you are to kiss someone, instead of actually kissing on the mouth, you act out the kissing with one hand each held up and the palms touching each other. If people see it happen, it works as a representation as them actually kissing, so what our characters “saw” was that they kissed. I am happy this technique was included and I think it worked out really well.

Wedding vows
Before the larp started, we were instructed about the wedding vows. During the vows, everyone would gather around the newly married couple in a circle. After their vows where exchanged, all the players had the possibility to vocalize what their characters actually were thinking – like a monologue. This, however, was not something that the other characters would hear, only the players. So, as an example, my character could say that I thought this moment was very beautiful and another person could say that they would have wanted to be the one to marry Kholoud. After that, the larp continued for while longer and the secrets and thoughts that were shared about the feelings about the wedding could then be used by the players to push the drama towards its grand finale.

Till Death Do Us Part - Organizer

Mohamad, one of the organizers of Till Death Do Us Part. Photo: Johannes Axner

Organizer thoughts

I asked two of the organizers about their thoughts regarding the the larp.

Fatima AbdulKarim
“I had a great time in this larp!

Look, we don’t live in a world of luxury and options, but we are quite exposed.. and the reason why I fell into organizing this larp is not only the fact that I’m crazy about larping or that half my friends are there and doing it with me, but because the team from Fantasiforbundet and PFF made it such an interesting appeal to create an angle of thinking and a venue that would undress orientalist thinking and heterophobia into the simplest terms and a happy wedding!

I don’t know anybody in this larp who hasn’t enjoyed it! And, I don’t think I ever had a better after-larp party!”

Mohamad Rabah
“The larp concept is completely new in Palestine, and we would like to have such fantastic social, educational, intercultural and interesting tool among the Palestinian society. When we played our first long larp “Red October” in Oslo we decided to carry this to Palestine in cooperation with Fantasiforbundet, and here where the idea of having a larp between Palestinian and Nordic players started to see the light, with parallel work in the local level to promot the concept of larp and creating LARP society by having workshops and playing small larps.

Palestine has an old culture, rich of unique traditions, even if we are under occupation nothing will stop us from living our beautiful life style”.

Till Death Do Us Part - From the roof

Closing words

After a week of seeing beauty as well as troubles in these lands, we met the Palestinians and pulled off a wedding. The larp was packed with a clashing of cultures, dancing, loads of conflicts, and love affairs. This has been a truly fantastic way of seeing wonderful pieces of Palestinian and Arabic lifestyle and a great emotional roller-coaster ride,as well as being one of the best larps I have attended.

And if you are able to read Finnish, I recommend this article that was written about the larp by Juhana Pettersson.

Thanks to Elin Dalstål who inspired me with her review structure from her great post about the larp Just a Little Lovin’.

And finally a big Shukran to the organizers and participants who made this possible. Till Death do us Part amazed me, surprised me, and blew my mind.

9 thoughts on “Till Death do us Part – A Palestinian-Nordic larp project

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