Welcome to Night Vale is a humorous and spooky audio show that first launched in podcast format back in June 2012. Since then, over fifty episodes have aired and the entire thing has gained a cult following. Though the Night Vale crew have done live shows in the past, The Librarian Tour is the first time this American phenomenon has hit the UK, and it has been an instant hit.
Given that Night Vale is solely spoken word, the idea of a live show is an intriguing one. Rather than attempting to convert the world evoked through prose into some sort of theatre, the producers have opted for the simplest option; this is an audio show performed live; the voice actors are in costume, but it is still framed like a radio play; no elaborate sets or complex stage effects are involved. It simply relies on the superb vocal talents of the cast.
The premise of Welcome to Night Vale revolves around an American desert town in which every conspiracy theory is real and all your Lovecraftian nightmares have come to life. Each episode is presented in the format of a community radio show hosted by a gentleman called Cecil Gershwin Palmer (performed by Cecil Baldwin). The live show begins with a heartfelt (and highly amusing) plea from Meg Bashwiner, one of the show’s regular voices, that the audience doesn’t spoil the plot or setup for those who haven’t seen the show. So we’ll simply say that this particular show features a Library and the usual Night Vale-style shenanigans. It’s creepy, amusing and brilliantly presented. It uses the intimate audience space to full effect and Cecil Baldwin’s formidable presence draws you in, to create a unique experience. They do amazing things with very little, understanding that, in true HP Lovecraft style, the human imagination can cook up far scarier things than anything a props department can invent. The comic timing is equally excellent.
Those familiar with the show will know that there is normally musical accompaniment in each episode, which is referred to as ‘The Weather.’ Musical duties where performed by the charming Mary Epworth, who also warmed up the audience at the start of the show. Epworth’s style was appropriately heartfelt, interesting, and more than a little bit haunting - a good pick for such a unique show.
The crowd was relatively young and many were in cosplay. Fan-ish love was very much in full force, and this leant a strong cult vibe to the proceedings. This particular show’s setup and story is also friendly to those who have never heard of Night Vale before, though obviously hardcore fans will get much more out of it. It seems unusual that there was only one date of the show set for Britain’s second city, especially given that London has four dates, and we do hope the production comes back to the North.
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