Fans of the popular Netflix show are in for a treat as breathtaking special effects and exhilarating jump scares help tell the story of how Henry Creel becomes one of TV’s most terrifying villains.

The Duffer Brothers have done it again with this one, taking a new and original story by Kate Trefry, and assembling an outstanding creative team to help bring a completely new Stranger Things beast into the world, which lays Easter eggs and new themes into their complex story which unfolds nearly 20 years later on our screens.

It’s worth buying a ticket just for the opening scene alone which is truly astonishing. I won’t spoil what awaits, but I’ve never seen a whole war ship (yep!) enter the stage before, as its crew fight off an attack from another dimension, otherwise known as ‘the upside down’.

We then fast forward to 1959 where Joyce Maldonado (Isabella Pappas) is putting on a play at Hawkins High. The greatest gift of this prequel is a unique glimpse into the younger lives of some of our favourite characters from the TV Show. Jim Hopper (Oscar Lloyd) is as inquisitive as his older self; Bob Newby (Christopher Buckley) is a complete nerd with his own student radio show and Joyce gets a taster of what her future has in store when Lonnie Byers (Chase Brown) persists to get her attention. 

Isabella Pappas as Joyce Maldonado, Oscar Lloyd as James Hopper Jr and Christopher Buckley as Bob Newby in Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Source: Manuel Harlan

From left: Isabella Pappas as Joyce Maldonado, Oscar Lloyd as James Hopper Jr and Christopher Buckley as Bob Newby.

It’s a normal high school setting, but this changes when mysterious new boy Henry Creel (Louis McCartney) arrives and sets his heart on Patty Newby (Ella Karuna Williams). Of course, the audience knows who Creel is and what he becomes, but it doesn’t make it any less gripping. McCartney is fascinating to watch, and for this to be his stage debut means he’s set to have a great career once this closes in August.

He is the definition of creepy - incredibly pale and twitchy as he desperately tries to suppress the monster within. He’s able to make the lights flicker, smash mirrors with his mind and burn out radios to leave a horrifying static noise which can be used to listen in on the lives of others. At first he’s scared, but as the students’ animals start dying in the most horrific way, questions are raised about Creel’s true intentions.

Louis McCartney as Henry Creel in Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Source: Manuel Harlan

Louis McCartney is fantastic at building tension with the help of amazing special effects.

McCartney can only do so much though, and as brilliant as he is at showcasing his character’s psychotic episodes through rigorous shaking and what looks like physical discomfort, it’s the special effects department that excel here. You can expect plenty of sparks, 3D projections, strobe lights and jaw-dropping stunts that make you feel as if you’re watching a Hollywood film unfold live on stage - the budget must have been astronomical. 

When Dr Brenner (Patrick Vaill) arrives to treat Creel, his symptoms only deteriorate which culminates on performance night of the school play, with one profoundly explosive finale. Also, don’t leave your seat unless you absolutely must - there’s plenty of off-stage antics to keep your eye on too and you don’t want to be bowled over in the aisle as one poor lady nearly found out in our case!

Patrick Vaill as Dr Brenner) and Louis McCartney as Henry Creel) in Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Source: Manuel Harlan

Dr Brenner tries to get inside the mind of Henry to discover the truth that lies within.

It’s hard not to be engrossed in the tension as it’s built so well with nods to classic horror techniques like piercing silence and trembly torches in dark spaces. The production is incredibly funny too, giving you a moment to catch your breath and prepare for the next inherent threat to be thrown your way.

This is really a story for the fans, so newcomers (where have you been!?) may need to watch the series before visiting, or at the very least brush up on their Stranger Things knowledge beforehand. However, those that give it a chance will leave feeling completely entertained. Three hours felt like three minutes, as the audience are taken on a journey which answers some important questions and raises even more. It’s a show that is sure to turn your world upside down. 

We saw Stranger Things: The First Shadow at the Phoenix Theatre on Tuesday 6th February. The show is running until 25th August 2024, with tickets and more information available at