Stranger Things Takes on the West End with ‘The First Shadow’

Stranger Things stars Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink & Gaten Matarazzo at the 2018 MTV Movie

The much-anticipated stage adaptation of the Netflix hit series ‘Stranger Things’ is set to open in London’s West End this week, marking a significant departure from typical screen-to-stage adaptations. Titled ‘Stranger Things: The First Shadow’, the play is directed by Stephen Daldry and produced by Sonia Friedman, known for their work on notable productions like ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’.

Scriptwriter Kate Trefry, who was initially surprised by the proposition from the show’s creators Matt and Ross Duffer, took on the challenge of developing a play that connects intimately with the series’ mythology. The story, set in 1959, serves as a prequel and explores the origins of the villain Vecna, portrayed in the series by Jamie Campbell Bower and in the play by Louis McCartney. The narrative introduces new characters and brings back younger versions of familiar faces from the series.

Trefry, who had limited experience with plays, was selected for her deep understanding of the show’s tone and mythology. Her involvement ensured a seamless connection between the stage adaptation and the previous seasons of ‘Stranger Things’. The play is not only a testament to the series’ popularity, having become Netflix’s most-watched English-language show, but also a bold venture into a new medium for the franchise.

The play is unique in its relationship with the ongoing series, with the same writers working on the upcoming fifth season of ‘Stranger Things’. This collaboration ensures that the play informs the series and vice versa. The play’s narrative is crafted to be accessible to both seasoned fans and newcomers, aiming to enhance the viewing experience of the series’ next season.

The adaptation faces the challenge of translating the show’s visual splendor, known for its grotesque monsters and gripping storytelling, to the stage. The production team, including Leo Warner of 59 Productions, is tasked with meeting the high expectations set by the series’ visual standards. Warner’s team, who contributed to the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, focuses on integrating technology subtly to enhance the storytelling.

‘The First Shadow’ aims to attract a new audience to the West End, still recovering from the impact of Covid-19. The production’s team hopes that the show’s broad appeal and the dedicated fan base of ‘Stranger Things’ will contribute to the revival of the theatre scene. With no fixed plans for the show’s duration in the West End or potential transfers, the production is focused on delivering a captivating experience for the audience.

Early reactions to the play have been overwhelmingly positive, with frequent gasps and screams from the audience. The play’s success is crucial for Trefry, who views her role as a commitment to the fans of the series. The production team encourages audiences to maintain the secrecy of the play’s contents, adding to the overall mystique and excitement surrounding ‘The First Shadow’.

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