Escape the Bubble: Welcome to the Night Vale Live reviewed

In the conventionally gothic venue of the Queens Hall in Edinburgh was set the second show of ‘Welcome to Night Vale’s UK and Ireland tour titled The Investigators. The venue was the perfect setting for the dystopian podcast with the ideal mix of Victorian architecture and space for those to attend. Walking in you were instantly engulfed by a mixture of fans and fans. People wandered around sporting the traditional Night Vale colours of varying shades of purple and violet, whilst others wore their portrayals of the characters. Some even had the third eye sketched upon their foreheads (associated with the almost magical ability to perceive more then what is normally seen within the limitations of normal sight, and also correspondent with many fans interpretations of the iconic radio host).

‘Welcome to Night Vale’ is an American Podcast, created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor in 2007. The dystopian narrative, which compromises each episode, is broken only by music from Disparition and a surprise guest in each episode of the bi-monthly podcast. The podcast has managed to remain add free, and independent despite gaining a fierce popularity especially in the USA.  The fictional radio show, as it is presented as, is told mainly by the comically unreliable narrator, Cecil Gershwin Palmer voiced by Cecil Baldwin (actor, director).

The Weather (the space on the show where a wee indie artist or band will perform a single) was performed live by musician, Jason Webley (an American folk and alternative musician). Webley energetically and at times madly performed his set pieces. Violently bashing his head rhythmically up and down in time to his heavy stamps upon the drums set out on the stage, with such velocity to throw his hat clean off numerous times, much to the amusement of the audience. Meanwhile his hands were franticly jumbling for position up and down his accordion, which gave the music a frantic and almost improvised quality. Webley allowed the audience the occasional respite from the intensity with the occasional pause where he would dramatically stretch the accordion slowly out again in front of the microphone so as to allow the audience to clearly hear the air being sucked into the void of the machine.

When Cecil Baldwin strolled onto the stage the audience erupted with cheers and a thinly veiled expectation shattered, of hearing a voice only heard through speakers (of varying quality) within the venue of which we are all gathered in. Cecil appeared similar to the impersonations many had envisioned. Slim, waist coasted, cheekbones protruding, the aristocratic man who keeps himself well dressed. However, his baldness was the only stark contrast to the character imagined which frequently seemed to sport a rather luminous mullet of varying vibrant colours.IMG_4757

He immediately welcomed the audience in his familiar deep yet, slightly flirtatious tone. He toyed with the audience. Repeatedly stating that he couldn’t hear us and that he insisted we became ever louder with our yelling and cheering. This was until he reminded us that he was in his radio booth and therefore could not hear us. The audience were able to see how this staged production of a podcast was to be performed, as the various performers entered the stage they would walk on and just stand at a microphone holding their scripts. Such simplicity still elicited much engagement from the audience.

The theme of The Investigators was a murder, which had been committed in Night Vale, and the culprit had to be caught, by order of the Secret Police. Throughout the performance audience participation was at points encouraged. We were made to seek out a stranger’s eye in the crowd and to associate them with the potential murderer. We had to yell things across the seating arena, which made for loud and hilarious moments.

The Community Calendar section of the podcast was also included and was as mysterious and frightening as always. Stating the various terrifying things that were going to happen over the course of the week, and hinting to one particular member of the audience who was going to be thrust in to Space and to remember that for a couple of seconds, one can survive unaided. This left one slightly worried looking member that was picked out but the rest of the audience in hysterics.

Joseph Fink also delighted fans as his appearance as intern, Joseph. He appeared confused as to why he had been selected to do an internship with the radio station, subtly voicing in his performance the fans unspoken question of “why would anyone want that!?!” Since, more often than not, they end up dead. Of course, this is the way he went, screaming into the microphone before turning promptly and happily marching off stage, arms swinging joyously by his sides.

Jeffrey Cranor, also made a guest appearance as a musician who frequents the nightmares of children. Cranor took out a guitar and a large butcher’s knife, that had been hidden from the audiences view out from behind his back and dragged the blade at a precarious angle up and down the strings. Thus causing a loud screeching sound that pushed Cecil to squeal in delight and most of the audience to cringe away in expectation of strings snapping! A small blade also toyed with the strings at the top of the fret board, adding to the audiences concern.IMG_4769

The sponsor (a regular part of the podcast in which the radio station is supposedly sponsored by something mundane in a way that is scary and twisted) was also a feature part of the live performance.  Deb (Meg Bashwiner) appeared on the stage to discuss ‘Evian’ water. Meg was, as is normal for Night Vale, a sentient patch of haze. She glided onto the stage and started advertising the water, with thinly veiled hints about poisoning the water of all other brands as an incentive for everyone to buy Evian.  As is normal for the podcasts fixation with death, Deb also commented on the fragility of human life and stated, “Human life is just another means to an end” which was met with an amused murmur of agreement from the crowd.

The Investigators ended with the culprit caught. A member of the audience was singled out and forced to stand before our judging eyes. Night Vale was as safe as it ever is. Disparition  played eerily as the show ended and the curtains closed on an amazing performance.


Images courtesy of Sophie Greig