A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Stranger Things – The First Shadow

Stranger Things – The First Shadow
30 November 2023
Phoenix Theatre
3.0 out of 5.0 stars

Ah, Stranger Things, beloved show of our generation. With immersive experiences, official immersive shows, and pop-ups all over the world, we now have a fully fledged theatre show for the franchise!

Stranger Things, The First Shadow takes us back in time to witness the first time contact with the Mindflayer came to Hawkins. Now, I’m not going to give anything about the plot away, as it’s a show best witnessed in person, I’ll just be speaking about the staging of the production here.

The Phoenix Theatre is bathed in red light before the show even starts, setting an eerie scene for what’s to come. The production utilises very modern technology to achieve its effects, which on one hand looks great for people who don’t see a lot of modern or effect heavy shows, but as someone who goes to the theatre a lot, I do have to say I was a bit disappointed with the visuals overall.

There are two screens that get lowered and raised throughout the show, used to project animations and other effects on them. This does look quite slick, but I was hoping for more practical effects, more stage props, less video projections that looked a bit too much like watching a film in the cinema.

When the projections aren’t used, the stage itself is very bland, especially compared to other big West End shows, with just minimal set dressing being wheeled in here and there. The practical effects that are present are absolutely fantastic, there just aren’t enough of them and the heavy reliance on video projections feels cheap and repetitive. Especially as the show is over three hours in length but doesn’t seem to contain enough plot to really justify this length.

The plot is very predictable for those who have seen all four seasons of the show, there’s not really anything groundbreaking in there. They do utilise a lot of characters already established in the show, but they feel somewhat shoehorned to fit this specific plot in a way that doesn’t necessarily make sense for their previous development on the show. It does feel like massive fan service rather than developing a story that makes sense in itself.

This show is definitely not for the uninitiated, you definitely need to know at least the basics of Stranger Things to follow the plot and characters. However, it is an enjoyable show for fans that definitely has potential. I’d say this is definitely aimed more at the casual theatre goer as the staging is nothing to write home about, but the hardened Stranger Things fan will likely find much joy in this production.

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