Lines And Ladders Performance Diary 14: How long does it take to play?

Games last approximately 1 hour.

I state this when people book to play.

Mostly it’s true. Games last about an hour. Yet, play must be flexible, the frame needs room to expand and contract.

There are decisions made at the start that affect the length of the game. Two dice will speed the play. Do we get an extra turn when a 6 is thrown? Or with a double? Do we have to get an exact number to reach the end? To be honest, this last question I normally ask when we’re nearing the end, to give the players the choice of prolonging the play or ending the game quickly. The choice is normally made depending on who is closest to the end… if it’s me, exact number, if it’s an audience-player any number 😉

The shortest game that I have played lasted 35 minutes. This was with Nicola Dexter and Leon Winnert, a pair of friends, in Edinburgh, who played an impromptu game in between other shows. I knew what time their next show was and I feel that I hurried them. Using two dice, any number to the end. I regret this. The game was too short and the storytelling opportunities for Nicola in particular were too limited. She commented on this in her reflections, saying that whilst she enjoyed the game: ‘the roll of the dice meant I didn’t get the opportunity to share much as I got to the end quickly. However it was interesting to hear my friend’s stories in a different context.’

The responsibility to get them to the next show was not mine. My responsibility was to ensure that my game was a success for them.

The longest game was 1 hour 40 minutes and after this we sat and we talked for a good while about the game, about the stories that we’d shared, about the experience of playing. This game was pre-booked. I knew two of the players, H. S. Alessi and J. Smith, prior to playing. The third player, who chose to be anonymous, knew none of us beforehand, but commented afterwards: ‘I was surprised at how relaxed I felt about talking about fairly personal things with people I had only just me.’ There was time in this game for expansive stories. There was time for revelations, for deeply felt emotions and for laughter. We went round in circles, every time someone got close they were sent hurtling down the longest ladder again. The relief of the winning throw was joyful – although I can’t remember who actually won!

There have been times when players have manipulated the rules in order to change the length of the game, but for example, refusing to go down the same ladder for the third time. But this is what play is all about, as long as we can all agree. So the new rule is that you can’t go down the same ladder more than two times. And the play continues.

Games last as long as we’re still playing.


A clock that my Granny Nichol gave to me. It’s decorated to imitate the roof of Carlisle Cathedral.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s