Stranger Things: The First Shadow review and tips

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As huge Stranger Things nerds, we started our 2024 off with a bang with a trip to London to see Stranger Things: The First Shadow at the Phoenix Theatre. We booked our ‘cheap seats’ tickets the day the tickets were released back in March 2023 so it was a long time coming. As we were buying tickets for a family of 4 sadly we couldn’t afford the more expensive tickets so got the cheapest ones on the very back top row with a slightly restricted view. This Stranger Things: The First Shadow review includes our tips for going to watch the play, information about the characters, the show running times and more. Please note, I’ve split the post into sections first with no spoilers and then a clearly labelled spoiler section for those who know they won’t be able to see the play but are desperate to know the canon.

Any questions, pop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

You can buy tickets to Stranger Things: The First Shadow from just £20 through my affiliate link here. 

Stranger Things: The First Shadow plot

From the official Stranger Things: The First Shadow site, the Stranger Things: the First Shadow plot is as follows: ‘Hawkins, 1959: a regular town with regular worries. Young Jim Hopper’s car won’t start, Bob Newby’s sister won’t take his radio show seriously and Joyce Maldonado just wants to graduate and get the hell out of town. When new student Henry Creel arrives, his family finds that a fresh start isn’t so easy… and the shadows of the past have a very long reach.’

Stranger Things: The First Shadow review – spoiler free section

I’m not going to do a whole traditional review here as there are loads out already. Suffice to say we really enjoyed the play. The opener was epic and the audience literally cheered and clapped after it as the classic Stranger Things music started to play.

There was a lot about it that reminded me of Cursed Child (I will say Cursed Child wowed me more) which isn’t a surprise given that Jack Thorne and others worked on both.

Anyway it was great fun and if you can you should go see it. I’m hoping they put it out ‘Fleabag’ and ‘Hamilton’ style on Netflix because people who can’t physically get to see it should be given the opportunity to see this canon story too.

Anyway, what follows are things I haven’t found in the other reviews and the questions I couldn’t find answers for prior to going!

Phoenix Theatre showing Stranger Things the First Shadow

Stranger Things: The First Shadow – tips for going to watch the play

  1. You can get free glasses of tap water at the bars and take them into the theatre
  2. You can take your own food into the theatre as long as it’s cold and in plastic containers 
  3. On the way out they hand out free limited edition Stranger Things” The First Shadow badges at the main entrances but not the side entrances so if you go out a side door pop back to the front to grab some
  4. The experience would be better in the better seats (sounds obvious but I do wish we had plumped for better), we had the cheapest ones and whilst ok probably compromised the experience a little
  5. As usual for theatres there isn’t adequate female toilet provision. The women’s toilets get big queues in interval so get there immediately or you’ll spend the whole interval in the queue.
  6. Take note of the posters in frames around the theatre, everything is an Easter egg (I’ve included photos of the ones I could find below)
  7. If you are going with children, there is a bit more swearing than the show, including 3 F bombs
  8. Don’t drink a lot before going or during – they told us if you need the toilet during the play you might not be allowed back in for up to 30 minutes

Stranger Things the First Shadow run times (when we went)

  • 7-8.30pm Act 1
  • 8.30-8.52pm Interval
  • 8.52-10.06pm Act 2

Stranger Things: The First Shadow merchandise with prices

Stranger Things: The First Shadow merch - including cups, plushs, beanies, magnets and more

The Phoenix Theatre lets you pre-order merchandise, food and drinks for the night if you enter your seat numbers on their website and this lets you have a look at what is on offer and how much it costs so that you can plan accordingly. Important if you are going with children to manage their expectations.

Below are some of the options and prices…

  • The First Shadow Demogorgon Plush Doll – £15
  • Youth t shirts – £20
  • Adult t shirts – £25
  • London/Hawkins scarf – £20
  • Beanie – £15
  • Tote – £15
  • Mugs – £12
  • Hoodie £50
  • Fridge magnet – £5
  • Creel house keychain – £10
  • Enamel pin badge £6
  • Programme £10
  • Magnetic book mark – £5

Its also worth noting that they have First Shadow branded high quality card bags for 5p which are well worth getting for your Stranger Things: First Shadow merch as they are like merch in itself.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow food and drink with prices

You can also see the food/drink prices on the Phoenix Theatre website when you click through to pre-order. Being London, of course its expensive. Here are some highlights:

  • 20cl (one glass) bottle of prosecco £12.90
  • 330ml bottles of beer were around the £6 mark, whilst 500ml beers and ciders were around the £8 mark
  • Cans of spirits and mixers were from £7.80-£10
  • Bottles of pop were around £4
  • Popcorn was £6.40
  • Ice cream £5
  • Crisps £5.50
  • Pick n Mix £5.80

Scoops Ahoy Phoenix Theatre

From what I saw at the ‘Scoops Ahoy’ section they had two ice creams on offer and they were priced higher then the other ice creams. I’m not 100% but I think these were around £7.80-£9.95.

Personally, we chose to go for dinner before and then not eat at the play and just got free tap water from the bar. We didn’t want to need the toilet during the performance!

Stranger Things: The First Shadow reveals – spoiler free:

This section has spoilers if you haven’t seen season 4 but doesn’t have Stranger Things: The First Shadow spoilers. This is what ‘canon’ you learn from the play…

  • Where Henry Creel/others numbers get their powers from 
  • Why Henry killed his family 
  • What existed in Dimension X before Henry Creel
  • Brenner’s back story – including why he is doing what he is doing, what his motivation is 
  • What all the adults were like at school 
  • Joyce/Hopper’s relationship back story – you wondered what went on with them when they were young, this reveals the answer 
  • Bob’s backstory and relationship with Joyce at school
  • Introduction to a new important character who may be important in s5
  • Minor spoiler for the play: The relationship between some of the adults and Henry Creel – may be important in s5
  • Why the rainbow room is the rainbow room 

Stranger Things seat view and Phoenix Theatre London seating plan

We were a little worried about our seats as we chose the cheapest £20 tickets right at the back. Here is photo of our view from those seats. For us, as we were taking our children and there were 4 of us it was the only way we could afford to do it. We still enjoyed the show but undoubtedly better seats makes a better experience. We were seats J25 to J28 and the bottom left of the stage was obscured a little.

If you want to find out more about the seats and their views prior to booking then Seating Plan has all the seats and people’s photos of the stage from those seats and feedback.

The view from J25 at the Phoenix Theatre – you couldn’t see the bottom left of the stage
You can buy tickets to Stranger Things: The First Shadow from just £20 through my affiliate link here.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow – SPOILERS

If you know you won’t be able to go to the play and want to know what canon you find out about here are the spoilers: 

  • The US Government experimented with trying to make a ship invisible from enemies during the war. This was called the Philadelphia Experiment or Project Rainbow. During this, the ship went to Dimension X and the crew were killed by Demogorgans. The only survivor was Brenner’s dad. He couldn’t be saved as he came back with a totally different blood type than the ones in existence but he told Brenner all about what happened on his death bed.
  • The Rainbow Room is as easter egg to Project Rainbow.
  • Brenner developed a life long obsession with researching what his dad told him and opening a gate to Dimension X. During this research one of his crew members ran off with some of the materials. Henry Creel came across this crew member and materials in caves in Nevada and where he went missing for 12 hours. He went to Dimension X and came back changed, also with the different blood type. The crew member died.
  • Henry himself wasn’t evil per se but was being heavily influenced by the Mind Flayer and Brenner. Henry tries to fight against the Mind Flayer when the Mind Flayer tries to kill Patty Newby’s father. Bob and Patty’s father tells Patty this when he’s in recovery. He says the Mind Flayer tried to kill him (and draws him the same as Mike did in the spider form) but that Henry stopped him. This backs up Dustin’s theory that Vecna isn’t the big bad but more a general in the army.
  • The other numbers are born from experiments with Henry’s blood. In particular, Eleven’s mam was given Henry’s blood whilst she was pregnant.
  • Henry gains energy and strength from what he kills. Brenner encouraged him to move from killing animals to killing humans so he could get enough strength to open a portal to Dimension X. Brenner alongside the Mind Flayer were intent on manipulating Henry to achieve their own ends.
  • Joyce and Hopper never together at High School but they both wanted to and had several moments where it seemed like they would but life got in their way.
  • The adults all knew Henry at school and were in a school play with him. Henry and Joyce in particular had a relationship and Henry thought Joyce was nice. Hopper and Joyce pieced together what was happening with the animals being murdered, however they thought it was Henry’s dad, not Henry.
  • Patty and Henry were in love and Patty had influence over Henry and helped encourage Henry to be good. If Patty returns in season 5 this could be important. Henry used his powers for good to show Patty a dream sequence of what she wanted and to locate her birth mother.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow easter eggs (venue art)

I would advise getting to Phoenix Theatre early enough that you can walk all around the building to look at the posters. Every piece of art in the building is a Strangers Thing easter egg.

For those who can’t get to the show I’ll include photos I took of the posters here:

Predictions for Stranger Things season 5 after watching Stranger Things: The First Shadow (spoilers)

  • Once the adults find out about Henry being Vecna in season 5 they will investigate their memories of the past to try and see if they can help. They may think Patty is dead (in the play it seemed like she died but then Henry uses the void to see her reconcile with her birth mother) but they might be able to find Patty to help. I’d be surprised if Joyce didn’t try and contact Vecna personally to try and influence Henry too.
  • We discover Will has been affected more from being occupied by the Mind Flayer and has more in common with Henry Creel than we realised and that this can be used to their advantage. I wouldn’t be shocked if we discovered Will too has some unrealised powers.
  • The group use what they know about Henry Creel’s powers to develop Eleven’s powers further.

Questions I had after watching Stranger Things: The First Shadow

  • Does travel to dimension X change your blood or just interaction with smoke monster/Mind Flayer? Because Will spent time in Upside Down and was occupied by the Mind Flayer so how is Will and Henry different? Because the Mind Flayer occupied Will in the real world and not Dimension X?
  • I’m still not sure why Eleven is so special to Henry/Vecna. The show suggests its because she is strongest. The play intimated that she was the first child Henry was introduced to after being more imprisoned and powers restricted by Brenner.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow characters (minor spoilers)

Stranger Things: The First Shadow characters include:

  • Young Joyce
  • Young Hopper
  • Young Bob
  • Bob’s sister Patty
  • Patty’s mother
  • Bob’s dad
  • Young Karen
  • Young Ted
  • Young Lucas’ parents
  • Young Dustin’s parents
  • Young Lonnie (Will and Jonathan’s dad)
  • Hooper’s Dad
  • All the Creels
  • Younger Brenner
  • Eddie’s dad
You can buy tickets to Stranger Things: The First Shadow from just £20 through my affiliate link here.

If you liked this post you might also like my other Stranger Things posts:

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This post was originally published January 15th 2024 and last updated 22 May 2024.

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2 thoughts on “Stranger Things: The First Shadow review and tips”

  1. I just went to see it with my sister and we absolutely loved it! We were in the front row of the highest level- the seats were pretty cheap but we were really pleased with the view. It was great to read your blog too- did you pick up any Easter eggs in the show? One of the end scenes between Hopper and Joyce has Christmas decorations hanging from the bar and I’m sure the lights were the exact same as how Will communicated in S1! Anyone else got any others??


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