Daliso Chaponda to make his Selby Town Hall debut on Apocalypse Not Now tour

Daliso Chaponda: Selby Town Hall debut on Friday

MALAWIAN comedian Daliso Chaponda declares “Apocalypse Not Now” at Selby Town Hall on Friday.

The BBC Radio 4 regular and 2017 Britain’s Got Talent finalist is making his Selby debut on his nationwide tour.

Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones says: “I think Daliso is one of the most naturally gifted and effortlessly funny acts on the circuit. The phrase ‘funny bones’ isn’t always applied terribly well by comedy aficionados, but if anyone can rightly claim to have them, it’s Daliso!”

Chaponda’s stand-up had notched more than 300 million views online before his UK breakthrough on Britain’s Got Talent.

Since then, he has made his mark on BBC2’s QI and BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz and The Now Show on BBC Radio 4, and most notably he is the writer, creator and host of his own Rose d’Or-nominated Radio 4 show Citizen Of Nowhere, chalking up two series.

Chaponda has performed around the world and at the Edinburgh, Melbourne, Singapore and Cape Town comedy festivals, as well as touring the UK twice.

Now comes his Selby date. “Daliso is a master of satire, and there has definitely been no shortage of material to work with in the year and a half since he was last able to go out on tour,” says Jones. “I can’t wait to see what he has cooked up.”

Doors open at 7.30pm for Friday’s 8pm show; tickets cost £15 on 01757 708449 or at selbytownhall.co.uk.

Could mystery of The Battersea Poltergeist finally be solved at Grand Opera House?

The Battersea Poltergeist: From podcast to live show with the audience as Dr Watson to the host and experts’ Sherlock Holmes

WHAT is The Battersea Poltergeist? Tonight’s show at the Grand Opera House in York – always a great haunt for ghost stories – will answer that question.

Writer, journalist and 2:22: A Ghost Story playwright Danny Robins will be leading the investigation at 7.30pm as part of a nine-date tour in Halloween season as his hit podcast comes out to play with live audiences. In tow will be his resident experts, paranormal investigators Ciaran O’Keeffe and Evelyn Hollow.

Fronting this year’s BBC docu-drama podcast on “Britain’s strangest ever haunting” case, Robins told the terrifying true story of Shirley Hitchings, the focus of frenzied poltergeist activity in and around her family home at Number 63, Wycliffe Road, Battersea, London, from 1956 onwards, starting when she was 15.

The Hitchings’ poltergeist case went on to span 12 years, making national newspaper headlines with its story of strange noises, flying objects, exorcisms and ghostly communication at the now demolished house. An attempt was even made to contact the poltergeist on live prime-time TV on the BBC and it was discussed by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons.

“It’s a great story, a story that when I came across it, straightaway I knew it was special, and the real thrill is that it’s an ordinary family going through such an extraordinary experience,” says Danny.

The Battersea Poltergeist series duly became Apple’s number one drama podcast worldwide, as what began as an eight-part BBC Radio 4 series, featuring Toby Jones and Dafne Keen, turned into a genre-busting podcast phenomenon by notching up nearly three million streams and downloads.

After a bidding war, Hollywood horror specialists Blumhouse – makers of Insidious, Get Out and Paranormal Activity – have snapped up the rights for a TV adaptation, now actively in development with Robins as an executive producer.

“The podcast just caught a moment,” he says. “It’s about this family trapped in their house, and people connected with that, at a point when we were all becoming very claustrophobic in our houses. 

“We’re living in these crazy, chaotic and, sadly, death-filled times, and I think we want ghost stories. We’re looking for answers. We’re hitting on those moments like you saw after the First World War, after the Second World War, these kinds of uncertain times, when people become interested in the paranormal. I think we’re seeing a very definite boom in interest in the paranormal and ghost stories.”

To some degree, says Danny, The Battersea Poltergeist – Live will be “like the podcast come to life” as it delves even deeper into the paranormal cold case of the poltergeist the Hitchings family nicknamed “Donald”.

“It’ll be me and the experts, Ciaran and Evelyn. Shirley will play a part in it too, either by video, as will be the case in York, or, fingers crossed, she’ll be there in the flesh for the London date, but she has diabetes now, so she has to be careful, especially with the Covid situation,” he reveals. “She’s elderly and we can’t take her around the whole country with us, but we’re really excited about her playing a role in each show.

“The show will be us talking about the case, but we’ll also have this amazing visual element. We’ll be able to use the big screen on stage to show a whole load of the evidence we have, photographs, newspaper cuttings and video of witnesses.”

The Battersea Poltergeist is an ongoing story. “We’re still getting chilling new evidence coming in,” says Danny. “I’ve got this incredible new pair of witnesses who have terrifying new stories and insights only just discovered. We’re going to share those stories for the first time on stage; totally new information that we’ve not been able to reveal in the podcast. Could they hold the final clues to solving this supernatural mystery?

“With my theatrical head on, I want it to be a fun, spooky night out, particularly as these tour shows are falling around Halloween. It’ll be the full bells and whistles, the Woman In Blackstyle moments of darkness and screams and poltergeist sounds – and that makes it a delicious live experience on stage, where we can show things in a way we couldn’t in the podcast.”

Whether placing themselves in #Team Sceptic or #TeamBeliever, tonight’s audience members are invited to play their part as supernatural sleuths for the night, with the opportunity to put questions to Danny and the experts about the case in a question-and-answer session. “With the audience as our co-investigators, we can be Sherlock Holmes to their Dr Watson,” he says.

Is it necessary to have heard the podcast before coming tonight, Danny? “Absolutely not! Our starting point, whether you have heard about The Battersea Poltergeist or not, is to approach it with an open mind. Let’s explore together. Fundamentally, it’s a fun, if scary night, and there’s something special about sitting in a darkened theatre with a shiver going down your back,” he says.

“I feel this story is a mystery that keeps on giving. I’ve been examining the case for two years and I’m still learning more – as will the York audience!”

The Battersea Poltergeist radio series takes the form of a documentary drama. “One of the influences was Ghost In The Water, a 1982 BBC drama that purported to be a documentary, and our story was almost the opposite in that it’s a documentary that people thought must be a drama because it’s such an extraordinary story,” says Danny.

“There’s something really exciting about being on a ghost hunt, and on stage the haunting will unfold as I tell the story throughout the evening, with the opportunity to ask questions. Each night, I’m totally prepared that someone might have a brilliant brainwave that could solve the mystery!

“For anyone who is sceptical or thinks they’re not really interested, all I would say is we have stories from people who were living in the street at the same time.”

Where does Danny stand on sceptics? “The interesting thing with the podcast is that listeners were pretty much divided between sceptics and believers, and so it’s almost like an Agatha Christie locked-room drama,” he says.

“If you’re a believer or a sceptic, either way you think, ‘how can this case go on for 12 years; how did it go on for so long?’, as we look at the psychological side of it and at the impact of the elements in the story. People just love trying to solve a mystery.”

Analysing why the British are so drawn to ghost stories, Danny suggests: “It’s because we’re deeply frightened of death, and for us ghost stories are both a comfort and cause of anxiety, whereas other societies are better at processing death.

“The less that organised religion is part of our lives in Britain, the more that ghosts are part of our psyche, leading to a boom in intertest in ghost stories in drama, on screen and in books, and also a worrying rise in exorcism in Christian culture. There’s also a threat to our lives in the Covid climate, where we’re having to confront our mortality in ways we haven’t for decades.”

Should you be wondering what Shirley Hitchings will be contributing on video tonight, Danny says: “We filmed her on October 18, when I asked her series of questions culled from what people asked on social media. Hopefully, we may have Shirley on the phone too.”

2021 has been a remarkable year for Danny Robins, bringing not only the success of The Battersea Poltergeist podcast, but the August 3 to October 16 hit run of 2:22: A Ghost Story at the Noel Coward Theatre, London.

“I’d already started writing it quite a while before I began working on the Shirley Hitchings story,” he says. “It was a process that took about five years, and I’ve been obsessed with ghosts for all of my life.

“When I researched 2:22, I put out a question, asking if anyone had seen a ghost, and so many stories came in that I thought, ‘these stories should be told’, so that led to the Haunted podcast series, and then I was told this amazing story of The Battersea Poltergeist.”

Meanwhile, the writing of 2:22: A Ghost Story reached the finishing line, and a cast was sought by director Matthew Dunster. Step forward pop star Lily Allen for her West End debut in Robins’ contemporary haunted-house thriller.

“Landing Lily for the role of Jenny was amazing,” says Danny. “Out director just had an instinct that Lily would be good, and our casting director was working with Lily’s mum [theatre producer Alison Owen].

“We managed to get a script to Lily, who happened to be at that stage of thinking, ‘what should I do next?’, and she turned out to be a wonderful actress.”

The Battersea Poltergeist – Live, Grand Opera House, York, tonight (2/11/2021), 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york. For a trailer, head to:  youtu.be/jVi15MTkjeE

Danny Robins: Writer, journalist, creator of The Battersea Poltergeist podcast and playwright, whose 2021 debut West End play, 2:22: A Ghost Story, starred Lily Allen.

Co-created BBC Radio 4 sitcom Rudy’s Rare Records with Sir Lenny Henry, writing four series and adapting it into his first stage play, Rudy’s Rare Records, co-commissioned by Birmingham Rep and Hackney Empire, again starring Henry.

As a comedy writer, he created BBC series Young Dracula and We Are History and The Cold Swedish Winter for BBC Radio 4. His Haunted podcasts for Panoply explored real-life ghost stories; his new podcast series for BBC Sounds, Uncanny, launched on October 20, featuring real-life stories of ghost and UFO encounters.

Evelyn Hollow: Scottish writer and paranormal psychologist for TV shows and podcasts, who holds a Master of Research degree in Paranormal Psychology. Trained as a travel writer by Lonely Planet, she was a resident author at Esoterica Zine and occult columnist for Corvid Culture and has taught writing classes at everywhere from universities to arts festivals.

A former psychology lecturer, she now gives guest lectures on paranormal history and the quantum physics of anomalous phenomena.

Ciaran O’Keeffe: Applied psychology professor, who provides a sceptical voice to various paranormal TV and radio shows, such as Most Haunted, Ghost Adventurers, Celebrity Ghost Hunt Live, The Battersea Poltergeist and Haunted.

Associate head of school of human & social sciences at Buckinghamshire New University, responsible for programming several crime degrees: BSc (Hons) in criminological psychology, BSc (Hons) in psychology & criminology and MSc in applied forensic psychology.

Areas of expertise are parapsychology and investigative psychology, leading to involvement in many unusual projects: physiological effects of infrasound at the Royal Festival Hall; ghost investigation of Hampton Court Palace; exorcism training day; hostage negotiation simulations; lie detecting for the film Spy Game.

Working with Global Ghost Gang of researchers on the book Ghosted! Exploring The Haunting Reality Of Paranormal Encounters for publication in early 2022.

Definition of Poltergeist

An indestructible ghost or spirit of chaos, responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved.

Olga Koch up north for Homecoming autumn stand-up show at Theatre@41

Olga Koch: “Figuring out who on earth she is, as an immigrant and certified teen drama queen” in Homecoming

“WHAT does it mean to belong and where is home?”, ponders Russian-born, English-dwelling, story-telling stand-up Olga Koch in Homecoming, on tour at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, on October 8.

New passport in hand, Olga will try to figure out who on earth she is, as an immigrant and certified teen drama queen.

Homecoming will be the third tour for Olga, 28, in the wake of 2018’s Fight and 2019’s If/Then, and once more she has created “cathartic performance art in the privacy of her own home”.

She was nominated for the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Best Newcomer Award for Fight, her debut “multimedia extravaganza” that took her audience through the making of modern Russia after Olga’s father – who went from “janitor to Mayor to Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, to game-show host, to dissident” – was stopped by authorities on the Russian border, resulting in the most surreal year in her family’s life.

Olga Koch: up for a Fight in her debut stand-up show

A British tour followed in 2019, visiting the Burning Duck Comedy Club at The Basement, City Screen, in February that year, where the tracksuit-sporting Olga dissected this real-life spy drama with nothing but a projector and her comedic insights. The show – an hour of Olga Koch starring in From Russia With Gloves Off – has since been aired as a special for BBC Radio 4 and is being adapted as a television sitcom. 

Olga’s If/Then debuted at the 2019 Edinburgh before touring the UK and was nominated for Best Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival. The show challenged Olga to tell a love story through the medium of computer programming, a subject she studied at university (“and, like, barely ever brings up”).

“In her feminist investigation into what happens when we can’t separate love and technology, Olga will teach you how to code and explore what happens when our expectations for love, happiness and Michael Bublé no longer compute,” the show brief said.

Like Fight, If/Then is now in development for television. Oh, and while on the subject of TV, Olga has appeared on QI, Mock The Week, King Gary, The New Comedy Show and Channel 4’s Sparks.

Ever busy,  she has released the podcast Tech Tech Boom on BBC Sounds and has a new series, OK Computer, running on BBC Radio 4.

Olga Koch’s poster for her newly announced Homecoming autumn tour

Now comes Homecoming, prompting Olga to say: “After various attempts to bring this show to life, I (a stand-up comedian who hopefully hasn’t forgotten how to do stand-up) cannot wait to bring this feel-good extravaganza to an audience (who hopefully hasn’t forgotten how to laugh).”

Homecoming will form part of a full programme of autumn events at Theatre@41. Check out the programme at 41monkgate.co.uk; tickets are on sale at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Did you know?

OLGA Alfredovna Koch was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on September 1 1992. She was educated at TASIS England, aka The American International School in England, an American international boarding and day school.

She studied computer programming at New York University and trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York, and the Soho Theatre and the Free Association in London.

Olga Koch’s Homecoming will find a home at last this autumn after “various attempts to bring this show to life”

Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans double up for Your Place Comedy bill online on Sunday

Simon Evans and Jo Caulfield: Broadcasting live online from their living rooms to yours on Sunday night

JO Caulfield and Simon Evans will perform live from their living rooms on Sunday in the third edition of Yorkshire’s virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy.

Once more, Selby Town Hall is collaborating with nine other small, independent arts centres and theatres from across Yorkshire and the Humber to provide an evening of entertainment from two touring acts, broadcast live to viewers’ homes for free on YouTube and the Twitch video live streaming service.

After the 8pm online double bill hosted remotely by regular compere Tim FitzHigham, viewers will have an option to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. All money raised will be distributed equally among the ten supporting venues, as they each seek to navigate their way through these challenging times when closed down under the Covid-19 strictures.

It’s that Jo Caulfield again…this time entertaining on the home front

After Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont on April 19, followed by Simon Brodkin  and Maisie Adam on May 10, this weekend is the turn of a brace of BBC Radio 4 comedy stalwarts, Caulfield and Evans.

Both have appeared on BBC2’s Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo; between them, they have guested on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You and Question Time, BBC2’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week.

They are regulars on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show, The News Quiz, The Unbelievable Truth and Just A Minute, while Caulfield has starred in three series of her own show, It’s That Jo Caulfield Again, and Evans has written and presented five series of Simon Evans Goes To Market.

Simon Evans, above: BBC Radio 4 comedy stalwart

Host FitzHigham is the writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gamble and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge.

“Your Place Comedy is a venue-driven initiative that tries to re-establish the traditional relationship between venue, performer and audience that has been temporarily lost during the Covid-19 crisis,” says organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer and manager of Selby Town Hall.

“The venues participating in the project have all pledged funds to both support the performers involved and to provide their audiences with entertainment from the kind of artists who, in normal times, would have been appearing in their local arts centre or theatre.”

Umbrella fella: Your Place Comedy host Tim FitzHigham

Chris continues: “While sadly our doors remain closed for the immediate future, this hasn’t stopped venues from across the region working hard to find new ways of delivering high-quality entertainment in innovative formats to the audiences they miss so much.

“All the theatres and arts centres involved in Your Place Comedy are deeply rooted in their communities and want to maintain those vital links that allow them to bring some of the most sought-after national and international touring acts to the towns and cities of Yorkshire and beyond. We are all determined to help keep the live performance industry afloat at a time when it has never been needed more.”

Joining together in this rolling initiative to put the fun into fundraising are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and  Rotherham Theatres.

Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam: The line-up for the second Your Place Comedy night on May 10

Looking forward to this weekend’s double bill, Chris says: “There’s a distinct Radio 4 vibe this time round with two stalwarts of the network, and two of the slickest, most accomplished and effortlessly funny acts around, Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans, taking to the virtual stage. Both Jo and Simon have sold out Selby Town Hall before.

“In a fit of nostalgia the other day, I was thinking back to the first time I ever saw a live stand-up show…and I’m certain it was Simon Evans, performing as part of the Carlsberg Ice Comedy Network at the University of York in late 2000. I can still remember the gags – and   that doesn’t happen very often! He was brilliant.”

What’s next for Your Place Comedy? “We’ll stop and take stock after this show, see what lessons small venues in the region can take from the exercise and whether there is a financially viable future in live streaming that supports artists, venues and audiences as this [venue closure] predicament inevitably runs into the autumn and beyond,” says Chris, who initially had speculated on the possibility of a run of five such shows.

Hull comedian and actor Lucy Beaumont: Her Your Place Comedy double bill with Mark Watson in April drew 3,500 viewers and raised £3,500 in donations

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the June 7 show, visit yourplacecomedy.co.uk.