“So! To sum up: I’m Amy, I like snacks, we’re all going to die, and enjoy the show!”
So begins The Librarian, the second live episode produced by the Welcome To Night Vale podcast, and the first one to get a European tour. Starting out in Dublin, the show’s UK tour stops include Manchester, Birmingham and London, as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh over in Scotland.
As for what Night Vale actually is… it’s complicated. My go-to description’s usually “what would happen if David Lynch, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman got together and made a town in The Sims, and then left it alone for ten years”. Less colourfully, it’s a local radio show set in a town full of eldritch horror and mysterious conspiracies, which the residents by now treat as totally normal.
The dog park contains many hooded figures, and dogs are forbidden. The town routinely fends off attacks from pterodactyls, glow clouds, and a smiley, blood-soaked corporation from an alternate universe. The last mayoral election was between a five-headed dragon and The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home. All this is reported on by the unflappable, lovable and definitely humanoid radio announcer, Cecil.
And this live show, basically an extended episode, is no different. This week, the big story’s that a Librarian’s escaped the library and started prowling the streets – that’s a Librarian with a capital “L”, and more pertinently razor-sharp claws and an exoskeleton. As ever, this gets reported on by Cecil – played by Cecil Baldwin, this time performing the show live and reading the script up on stage.
What would happen if David Lynch, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman got together and made a town in The Sims, and then left it alone for ten years
And if the fact that this is a two-year show based on one guy’s voice didn’t tip you off, he’s very good at reading that script. Having him stood on a stage with the facial expressions and body language to go with it adds an extra dimension, and between that and the plethora of guest-stars – special mention to the show’s co-creator Joseph Fink as Intern Joseph – the whole thing basically becomes a play without a set.
And the script’s as hauntingly beautiful and wickedly funny as ever – for a taste of what to expect, check their Twitter feed, if you don’t have time to download a podcast or 42.
And the show knows its audience. Aside from actually getting them to participate at various points, from standing up and screaming to solemnly congratulating the person next to you on being alive, we get a whistlestop tour of reports on the favourite people and places – the aforementioned dog park, 13-year old vigilante Tamika Flynn, the newly-appointed Mayor Dana and Cecil’s boyfriend Carlos, currently stuck in an abandoned dimension.
We also get a musical interlude, as is traditional, from Mary Epworth. There’s some good stuff in there, although probably nothing I’d download afterwards.
And of course, it’s always nice to go into a room where everyone in it’s a fan of the same thing as you. Looking at the audience was a bit like stepping inside tumblr: piercings, coloured hair, cosplayers (yes, you CAN cosplay a character with no actual appearance) and people in shirts with writing on them.
Overall, then, it was a worthwhile experience. The usual line regarding any adaptation of “if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll like this” rings very true, and it’s shorter than most full-fledged plays (an hour-and-a-half, with no intermission), but despite that, speaking personally, I’m glad I went.