Stranger Things' third season is just a week away - but Aucklanders have a chance to return to the Upside Down even sooner.
Performers Lee Smith-Gibbons and Tom Sainsbury are this week putting on a parody show titled Strange Thing (Or . . . What About Barb?), in which they retell the first season with a cast of actors and comedians and some very DIY props.
Smith-Gibbons - who has previously staged parodies of The Fly, Misery, and The Exorcist - says the idea to tackle Stranger Things came from one very clear casting decision.
"My friend Matthew Crawley, who used to run Golden Dawn - I find him very funny," she says. "He was saying that maybe he wanted to do some performance stuff.
"I was thinking about what the next thing we should do, and basically, because of his haircut, I was like, 'He should be Eleven, and we should do Stranger Things'."
So began a new challenge for Smith-Gibbons, who now faced the challenge of trying to fit eight 50-minute episodes into an hour-long stage show.
"With the other ones I would take the screenplay and kind of edit as I went, rewriting and cutting scenes out, amalgamating characters and stuff," she says. "But with this one, I'd seen the series when it came out, but it was so long ago, I couldn't quite remember. So I was just going from Wikipedia and writing it like a new script."
Roping in a cast of eight, each playing multiple characters, Smith-Gibbons then started pulling together low-budget props and figuring out how to stage the show's more flashy special effects.
"Eleven's powers are basically just the power of everyone's acting," she says. As for the Upside Down - "we're just going to try and create things with lights and stuff like that".
There's also a homemade Demogorgon costume. "It's a motorcycle helmet, an inside-out jacket lining, stockings filled with stuff, plastic bags - very high tech," she says. "Plus a couple of fancy Deadly Ponies furs which I then stuck hot glue all over. I just keep adding to it."
In their previous collaborations, Smith-Gibbons and Sainsbury have managed to pull off impressive special effects, including Linda Blair's levitation and head-spin in their parody of The Exorcist.
But Sainsbury wants to remind people that the shows are "purposefully lo-fi," he says. "If it's going to be budget, you might as well just fully embrace the budget."
Smith-Gibbons says it'll help audiences if they've seen the series before, but the comically ramshackle nature of the show means it's not essential. "I've cut out whole sub plots, which then alter things a bit," she says. As for Barb - "she still gets it, and everyone's just like, 'ah well'."
Smith-Gibbons and Sainsbury are "stoked" with their cast, which includes Sainsbury as Hopper and Mike, Crawley as Eleven and Will, and Lucy Suttor as Nancy and Dustin.
"At the read-through I was like, 'This is great'," says Smith-Gibbons. "Everyone's funny and suits their parts. I got to pick what parts I could play as well."
She plays Joyce Byers as well as Steve ("she's revolutionary," says Sainsbury). As for who's playing the Demogorgon - "since you can't see who's playing it, it's just whoever's free at the time."
With Strange Thing being Smith-Gibbons and Sainsbury's fourth outrageous parody show, it seems they're carving out a strange comedic niche in the Auckland performance scene. But the idea originated back when Smith-Gibbons was living in Toronto, after a brainwave she had while watching The Fly for the first time.
"I was thinking, there's only really three people in this, and they're not in many different places," she says. "I was like, 'this would be a cool play.'
"Then I just really wanted to be one of those people that said they were going to do something and do it," she says. "When I came home I asked Tom, and he was like, 'yep.' We just rehearsed in our lounge, I built the set, and then we just invited people and they just paid what they wanted afterwards.
"It's that challenge of doing those special effects that people are like, 'how are you going to do that?' And executing them in a crappy way, but a way that would get shrieks and laughter," she says. "Like, 'Oh my god, this is ridiculous'."
Who: Lee Smith-Gibbons and Tom Sainsbury
What: Strange Thing (Or . . . What About Barb?)
When: Until June 29
Where: Glassworks, Ponsonby