Life & Culture

Review of Stranger Things, The First Shadow: This show redefines what we can depict on page

Not a moment of this three-hour drama triumph lasts a second longer than you want it to [Missing Credit]


Butter wouldn't melt: Henry Creel

Stranger Things, The First Shadow

Phoenix Theatre

Five stars

Star ratings don’t quite cut it. Not since the astounding Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has a stage burst with such invention. And as with that show lead producer Sonia Friedman has compiled a dream team of creatives who talents redefine what it is possible to depict on a stage.

A foundering US warship lists dangerously after a secret experiment goes wrong. And it is huge, the great steel hull soaring high above the stalls for a scene lasting no more than five minutes. No ambition has been clipped here. No expense spared. Welcome to the world of theatre, Netflix style.

Director Stephen Daldry, the former theatre specialist behind one of the network’s longest running hits The Crown, has taken one of its other longest running hits, the sci-fi thriller Stranger Things and with stunning stage craft has achieved the near impossible act of making three hours go by in a time-collapsing triumph.

Is this Stranger Things better than the screen version? The easy answer involves apples and oranges. But the right one is “yes”. This show combines cinematic and theatrical bravura in a way that no TV series however, high def and wide the screen on which it is watched, could ever hope to match.

Not that you need to be down with all four seasons of Stranger Things to get a lot out of this show. But if you are familiar with the disturbing powers of the butter-wouldn’t melt Henry Creel, then this is his origin story.

In that role Louis McCartney superbly conveys the youngster’s struggle to control the monster within while Ella Karuna Williams is equally spot on as the girl he falls for and who tragically falls for him.

The setting – small town 1950s America – is beautifully observed down to the smallest period detail. But of course all rests on the multi-stranded, galloping plot. It is told with consummate skill by the original series’ creators The Duffer Brothers, one of their long time collaborators on the show Kate Trefry and playwright Jack Thorne who has done here what he did for the stage version of Harry Potter. Not a moment of this three hour triumph lasts a second more than you want it to.

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