Culture Theatre

REVIEW: “Welcome to Night Vale”

★★★★☆

by Lianne Potts

As a long-time listener to ongoing podcast series ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, it has been an ambition of mine to see one of their live shows for myself for years now, and I’m happy to say that the performance they gave on Monday night did not disappoint.

‘Welcome To Night Vale’ is a twice-monthly podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor which has been running since 2012. It takes the format of a local community radio show, broadcasting the news and current events from the small American desert town of Night Vale. Strange, unsettling, and often supernatural events are a regular part of its residents’ everyday life, with community radio host and self-styled ‘voice of Night Vale’ Cecil (portrayed by Cecil Baldwin) reporting live as everything unfolds.

‘All Hail’ is the podcast’s fifth touring live show to date, which they have already taken across America, and will be performing throughout New Zealand and Australia in early 2018. These live shows each serve as a stand-alone story separate from the podcast’s current storyline, which allows them to be easily enjoyed by both long-standing fans and complete newcomers. ‘All Hail’ centres around the Glow Cloud (a fan-favourite character, believe it or not), a sentient cloud with the power to control minds which threatens to cause chaos across Night Vale. The show expertly incorporated a whole host of beloved characters and familiar segments from the podcast and cleverly translated them into a live setting. The community calendar, weekly horoscopes and the Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner were all given a live twist to involve the whole audience. The latter involved the audience using their phone torches to ‘prove the existence of ghosts’ by holding them up to see the ‘strange ghostly figures’ which surrounded them. ‘All Hail’, as a whole, involved a surprising amount of audience participation, with everyone being asked on several occasions to join hands and recite the ‘Glow Cloud Oath’ in order to appease the being terrorizing Night Vale. Moments like these perfectly captured the podcast’s surreal and absurd sense of humour, whilst also allowing what is usually a one way and solitary experience to be transformed into a fully interactive experience that made the whole audience feel as though they were truly a part of the community of Night Vale.

The success of ‘All Hail’ must also be attributed in large part to its cast and musical guests, as each and every one of them took on their roles with astounding energy and enthusiasm. Cecil Baldwin was utterly captivating and unwaveringly hilarious in the lead role, getting bursts of laughter from the audience with every other line of dialogue, or even just a well-timed raise of the eyebrows. The supporting cast gave undeniably spectacular performances, most notably Meg Bashwiner as Deb/Caitlin, and Symphony Sanders as Tamika Flynn, but in the end, it was Baldwin’s performance that remained the most memorable. Additionally, the show would not have been complete without its musical guests, with Disparition’s Jon Bernstein on hand to provide a live rendition of the podcast’s haunting and atmospheric incidental music, and the incredibly talented Erin McKeowan wowing in the show’s live music segment.

The message which ‘All Hail’ left its audience was felt especially poignant and gave everyone something to take away with them into their real lives once they had left the fictional world of Night Vale. The show’s final act saw the Glow Cloud itself address the citizens of Night Vale through Cecil, and admit to us that it did not want our worship or our ‘all hail’s, but instead for us to uplift each other, and to go out into the world and actively do good by others rather than remaining passive; all in all, a very relevant message in our current political and social climate.

Overall, ‘All Hail’ lived up to every single one of my expectations of a ‘Welcome To Night Vale’ live show. The cast, musical guests and writers came together to combine both familiar aspects of the podcast and unique live elements, perfectly translating the world of Night Vale from audio to stage. If ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ are ever putting on a show near you, I’d highly recommend going along. Whether you’ve listened to one episode or one hundred episodes, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

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