You often say that that a good performance “started with a bang”. But The Battersea Poltergeist: Live! at Clapham Grand started with a scream.
A bloodcurdling, wailing scream, which gripped your guts to your seat and silenced the theatre.
From there the show was constantly captivating.
While Halloween drifted ethereal outside, we were enraptured into something far more terrifying: a real-life story set a stone’s throw from where we sat.
Telling the story of a Battersea family haunted for 12 years by a terrifying poltergeist, nicknamed “Donald”, presenter Danny Robins immediately brought everyone up to speed with a series of dimly lamp-lit tales.
Set on the now world-famous podcast, the show drew fanatical fans in similar numbers to those just after a good haunting.
A fifty-year-old cold case, the story followed the poltergeist’s target Shirley’s encounters with tapping, levitation, thrown pots and pans, written messages and even fire – all corroborated by journalists, police and family members.
Robins takes on the role of a spook detective, hunting down evidence with a tenacity and rigour that is thrilling to engage with.
This was focused by the Clapham Grand’s tour-de-force decorations – a Halloween theme is one thing, but the theatre appeared to be a grotto for Satan.
Illustrating the story with images and data projected behind him, Robins expertly condensed nearly five hours of listening into an easily accessible case summary.
But, joined by two paranormal investigators Evelyn Hollow and Ciaran O’Keefe, the show became analytically searching.
Hollow, a “Celtic Pagan” parapsychologist, brazenly glamorous in a red gown, was set against cynic professor O’Keefe, tearing the story to its bones and working out to what extent the sensational tale was, well, just that – sensational.
After the interval the big reveal came: Shirley had joined us, and spot-lights swivelled to the royal box where she told her story, live, in a total exclusive.
Smart and engaged, she spoke with an eagerness to be believed.
And then came more – Robins shared recent stories he had been contacted with since the podcast was aired of other poltergeists, just two minutes from the original site, dating to just the last couple of years.
Were these coincidences, or could it be that Donald had returned? Robins asked.
“It sounds as if it could be Donald,” Shirley, who knew him best, responded.
Walking from the theatre, you could not help but look over your shoulder.
Even if not quite convinced by the poltergeist, Robins’ story-telling forced you into doubt, which I haven’t quite been able to console even a week after.
As a show, this was brutally fascinating. As a Halloween event, it was the best thing you could have seen in London.