Following a hit podcast – The Battersea Poltergeist – leading paranormal investigators Evelyn Hollow and Ciaran O’Keeffe have returned, but this time live on stage. They are joined by Danny Robins, writer of the smash-hit West End ‘2:22: A Ghost Story’ starring Lily Allen.
We enter the Clapham Grand, which was once a dance hall venue that was attended by the young Shirley Hitchings – the protagonist of this ghost story. It is evident that this venue is probably well past its glory days, despite its ornate interior, like a stately home that has now been inhabited by squatters. A sign by the door reads “NO RE ADMISSION AT ALL.” “EVER.” ONCE YOU’RE GONE YOU’RE GONE”. If anything was going to ward off evil spirits tonight, it was this amateurish A4 laminated sign artlessly made using MS Word. Having said that, the entrance has certainly been given a great deal of attention, most probably not by our resident sign-maker. A disco ball spins, scattering light across the walls and ceilings, which are covered in Halloween bunting, skeleton figures and cobwebs. The hallway towards the stalls has an enormous Medusa head, where people gather to take turns posing with it. Now, you may see the old school hotdog carts and think ‘How quaint. How carnival-esque!’ For the sake of your insides, please keep away from them.
The excited chatter is cut through with a piercing scream. The show begins. Danny Robins is like the Brian Cox of the esoteric. He livens the audience with comedy, and audience interaction as he asks those of us who believe the story of the Hitching’s house haunting, and those of us who don’t to raise their hands respectively. The room is split between sceptics and believers. The aim of this evening is to plant that small seed of doubt in the minds of the sceptic, and to further engage and inform those of us who are already convinced. At one point, a deafening loud rumble is played in the theatre to mimic the intensity of the decibels that would have been heard by the Hitchings family, according to reports by the neighbours who also heard the sounds down the road. We are guided through a number of plausible explanations by Ciaran O’Keeffe, such as the proximity of the house near the railway tracks. This is then followed by a rebuttal by Evelyn Hollow who explains the discrepancies that these explanations cannot account for. However, neither of them are really able to match the same level of enthusiasm as Danny Robins, with Hollow at one point spinning in her chair, seemingly unaware of the audience.
If you are hoping that this show was going to deliquesce the staunch skeptic in you, then I’m afraid that it will only make your world-view firmer. The powerpoint glitches make the show feel like an amateur’s lecture, though Robins tries his best to mask this with comedy. Shirley Hitchings’ presence in the audience, however, was an important element to the show which even piqued the curiosity of those of us who still don’t quite believe this story.
Ultimately, this show did not translate well on stage, and would be best enjoyed through the podcast.