Update: The NoSleep Podcast team was kind to provide the correct names of the authors and their respective stories, so we can spread the love accordingly (29.01.2020)
We arrived early, as one should, and shuffled coats, umbrellas and wine on our seats with great anticipation. Nelly was definitely more nervous and excited, but then again she’d been following the NoSleep Podcast for over a year, and has listened to pretty much every single story they have recorded; now she’s giddy in a classic fangirl fashion. Her enthusiasm is contagious and I find myself grinning as I take in the darkened stage, the creepy poster and the podiums ready to be taken by the voice actors.
I deliberately know nothing of the stories we are about to hear, the authors or the crew. I like going in with my mind a blank slate when we review a book or a podcast for this blog. Like before any good adventure, I feel the unmistakable desire to be entertained.
We chat and sip wine for a while, and we start to notice the lights dimming. The hushed silence is broken up by David Cummings coming out on the stage. We give him a good cheer, and he says a few things and introduces the crew. Brandon Boon delivering the sound, David Ault, Erika Sanderson, James Cleveland. All are warmly greeted on the stage, and the audience realises it was the same people who were manning the merch table – the voice actors are pretty pleased with themselves hardly anyone recognised them. David then spends some time to ask us to participate as much as we can – he officially gives us permission to engage with their performance and be part of the stories.
And then we begin!
The Funeral by Gemma Amor
An excellent opening story, I thought it worked very well for a live tour. David in his role of a priest got us to participate and repeat ‘Amen’ a few times throughout the story, which got us listening even more carefully, in case we needed to chip in again. It was equal measures hilarious and creepy, with a good mixture of rising corpses, celebrating widows, and ruined relationships.
The Stewards by Mark Nixon
An American fortune teller has made his way to a British town and is telling everyone where to find hidden fortune, as well as the conditions it must be found upon. But when he goes to the furthest house close to the woods as the sun is starting to set, and predicts the piles of coins found in the woods, the hosts don’t seem too surprised or excited by the prospect of such an easy fortune. The vagrant decides to bag up the treasure despite the pleas of the family and their vague warnings. As the sun sets fully, evil walks the woods and the family muse on another victim. The voice actors did an amazing job of bringing life into the characters, yet I found this story the least memorable, as it was sandwiched between the funny The Funeral and:
Meeting Most Foul by Michael Whitehouse
By far, this was most disturbing story presented. It was witty and humorous, but in a pretty dark way. It played on a person’s morals and present misconceptions on ‘fairness’ and ‘right to speak’. Perhaps it affected me as much as it did, because as audience we were invited to participate again, a rising youtube star decides to do something sensational with his very first vlog – he gets the son of a murdering duo to discuss his book. As audience, we provided the cheers, laughter and boos as if this was a reality show. The main protagonist has been molested as a child to the point he can’t tell people’s faces anymore. So when a man and a woman enter the stage and claim to be his parents released from prison just for the occasion of taking part in the interview, the main protagonist very quickly loses concept of what is right and what is wrong. Despite the morally questionable twists of the story, the exclamation ”I’m just a youtuber” had me in stitches.
The Dewey Dunstable Show by Henry Galley
A select number of people have gathered at a large mansion to solve a murder mystery and find clues to capture the villain for a large reward. Instead, they discover two very real corpses and end up being chased by something very deadly. This story had some really good jump scares and I thought it worked very well as a finale. It was more lighthearted than the last story, and it was left with an open end – who will be the next victim?
All four stories worked very well for a live tour, you could tell they had been selected after careful consideration. At the performance in Manchester, the stories were all from British authors, which warmed up the audience further. Every voice actor was involved in every story, and played very different roles – it was mesmerising to witness all their transformations. The background sounds accompanying each story were also perfectly timed and well selected.
It was a delight to meet the cast afterwards, get their autographs and have a chat with each of them. They were so approachable and personable, I would love to be able to speak with them for longer – I am sure they have many stories of their own to tell, scary or not. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the event, I am very glad Nelly got me involved. The No Sleep podcast provides an amazing forum for authors to reach a wider audience, the voice actors work very hard for this to be the case. I will definitely be looking them up again!
I don’t think Vel expected to be challenged with a live reading of horror stories before we made the list for 2020. But since the NoSleep Podcast has been a major part of my life for the past (almost) two years and they announced their European tour a while ago, I decided that it would be a fitting choice for the start of the new year.
As the dates and locations started to show up on the tour page, Vel and I agreed to see the live show in Manchester as it was the most convenient one for us to see. We later learned that James Cleveland’s would be the special guest for the first three shows. I couldn’t wait to what a live show would be like. I love performances, but I rarely see anything live, especially concerts, because I tend to shy away from big crowds.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to miss the chance to meet David Cummings and the cast as they were my constant companion for the past two years: either because I was bored a work or my anxiety was acting up. It may sound very strange to many, but the the NoSleep Podcast calmed me down even in the worst of times. So naturally, I wanted to meet the people behind the stories, even if I didn’t get to meet everyone.
I was already too hype because I met Vel on the same day and I hadn’t seen her for a few months at that point. We had a nice dinner and then we walked briskly to The Dancehouse, where the magic was about to happen. Right from the start we were greeted by a few grinning individuals who skillfully manned the merchandise table. We hurried past them because we couldn’t wait to dry ourselves from the rain, get something to drink and to find our places.
The lights were dimmed, people were excited, the music and setting were appropriately haunting, and the black booths on the stage only intensified the feeling. A few minutes later, a loud voice announced that we wouldn’t be able to purchase anything from the merchandise table, so I hurried back to get a memento from the evening.
I instantly recognised the lovely Erika Sanderson, but as it later turned out, I failed to recognise other members of the cast. David Ault was the one who managed to fool me the best. And as I later found out, he takes great pride in fooling everyone around him and does a great job doing it. Afterwards, I rushed back to the hall and shared the goodies with Vel. Right on the dot, the familiar intro of the NoSleep Podcast began and darkness fell in the hall. As Vel mentioned, I was giddy.
Although I was already familiar with the show, there was a slight doubt in the back of my head as to how I’ll feel after I see it – I’ll either love it, or I’ll be disappointed. Fortunately, it was the former. I had an inkling that there wouldn’t be any extremely disturbing stories, because there would have to be many trigger warnings and people, who are usually not exposed to horror, would not give the podcast a second chance. Therefore, the most obvious choice for the live reading was to have a selection of comedy horror tales.
There were a total of four stories:
- The Funeral by Gemma Amor;
- The Stewards by Mark Nixon;
- Meeting Most Foul by Michael Whitehouse;*
- The Dewey Dunstable Show by Henry Galley;*
* Feel free to correct me on any of the story and author names. We tried our best to remember the names and give credit where credit is due. But we were so into the stories (and wine cups) that we forgot about taking notes.
Vel already summarised the stories, so I won’t go into too much detail about them. I felt that the first two stories were a bit similar in terms of story structure – a group of people end up being trapped by the walking dead. Nevertheless, both were very entertaining. David Ault and James Cleveland make a lovely couple, Erika masterfully switches between characters and David Cummings can make you want to go to church even if you’re non-believer. With that being said, I love how everyone works to bring the stories to life.
As you may remember, a while ago when we reviewed If They Come for Us, I had to find a video of Fatimah Ashgar reciting one of her poems so that I could connect better with the author and the narrative. I believe that some of the stories on the podcast can be disturbing enough on their own. But the collective effort of the authors, the editors, the voice actors and Brandon Boon, whose compositions echo throughout the episodes (as well as on stage), is what makes the stories and the podcast so special.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show! I would definitely recommend it to others, even those who are not much into horror but still want to get a glimpse of what a live reading of scary stories feels like. And I would do so because the experience, the atmosphere and the cast are worth it. The live shows are a nice introduction to the genre and you can share the adventure with your friends.
P.S. The cast gives very warm hugs!