Stranger Things: The Experience, 2022
Photo by Netflix
  • Theatre, Immersive
  • Recommended


‘Stranger Things: The Experience’ review

3 out of 5 stars

After a wonky start, this official immersive show does a decent job of throwing you into the world of the Netflix smash


Time Out says

The aggressive diversification of the ‘Stranger Things’ franchise gathers steam with ‘Stranger Things: The Experience’, an immersive theatre spin-off of the retro horror Netflix smash that has, for whatever reason, landed in a bleak industrial unit opposite Brent Cross Shopping Centre.

Banish all thoughts of north-west London, though. The year is 1986, and we’re supposed to be participants in a sleep study being conducted at the creepy Hawkins Lab in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, where the show is set.

It’s a slow start. After answering some perfunctory questions about our sleep habits, we’re split into colour-coded groups and put in a series of queues in which we’re eyeballed by actors posing as scientists. It’s actually pretty weird how many of them there are: as far as I can tell they’ve basically been hired solely to stare at us while we queue; certainly they don’t come back into it once the show starts properly. If you love waiting while being stared at, you’ll love the first 20 minutes of ‘Stranger Things: The Experience’, which begins by not so much immersing you in a world as keeping you on hold outside it.

The middle section marks the relatively innocuous beginning of our lab visit, and comes to a head in a room in which a researcher makes us do some puzzles, which leads to him concluding that we all have extraordinary psychic powers (which are deployed by making extremely naff hand gestures).

It’s pretty tepid up to this point: I’m struggling to think of another immersive show I’ve seen in which so little happens in the first half-hour. Was this going to be ‘it’? 

No! At the end of the scene in which our powers are unearthed, we get a little pre-recorded intervention from the show’s villainous Dr Martin Brenner (Mathew Modine), which heralds the beginning of a hugely welcome change of gear. The plot is pretty generic ‘Stranger Things’. But how cool is it to be immersed in a generic ‘Stranger Things’ adventure? Most importantly, a frankly wild surge in the quality of the special effects – as in, probably the best special effects in any immersive show in town – combined with a slew of game cameos from pretty much all the show’s child cast really takes ‘Stranger Things: The Experience’ up a notch (or eleven) for its final section. I don’t want to spoiler anything, but what earlier felt like a show only vaguely set in the ‘Stranger Things’ world suddenly dives headlong into it.

At the end we’re deposited in what’s essentially a small ‘Stranger Things’-themed shopping centre with a bar. Somewhat audaciously it’s been dubbed ‘an 80’s-themed [sic] Mix-Tape medley’, which is to say there’s a DJ playing some ‘80s songs while you shop and drink. It’s arguably a bit of a grift but if you’re weathering the cost of living crisis well enough to be able to afford a £15 Demogorgon cocktail (it has a mini stroopwaffle on top!) it’s a fun comedown, and the free retro gaming arcade is a hoot - I’m happy to report that ‘Space Invaders’ still slaps.

If you’ve never seen or actively dislike ‘Stranger Things’, it would be pretty perverse of you to hike out to Brent Cross for this. But if you like the show – even relatively casually – then ‘Stranger Things: The Experience’ is a very fun hour of fan service. It has a glacial start to be sure, but the Netflix megabucks win out in the end. If the end of Season Four has left you feeling bereft, this is the place to go to get yourself that little extra bump of strangeness.


£62, £47 underage. Runs 1hr plus ‘mix-tape’
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