INTERVIEW – One Man Stranger Things – Saturday 29th September, St David’s Hall

ARE you addicted to the smash-hit Netflix series Stranger Things?

Whether you’ve binge-watched every episode or haven’t got around to seeing the show everyone’s talking about yet; you’ll love One Man Stranger Things at St David’s Hall on Saturday 29 September!

Starting at 8pm, charismatic Canadian actor Charles Ross single-handedly recreates both seasons including all the characters, special effects and music! Expect Eggos and all manner of mysterious goings on!

Charles Ross and T.J. Dawe grew up in the 80s obsessed with adventure movies and have gone on to co-create wildly popular one man parodies of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Batman.

Now One Man Stranger Things tours the UK this autumn after a month at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You’ll laugh so hard your nose will bleed – just like Eleven!

Neil Collins chats with Charles Ross about this spectacular, upside-down show.

How has One Man Stranger Things gone so far?

Fantastically! Fringe tends to have two preview nights so it can be a bit of a slow start, and then things start to pick up. But people have got more savvy, and it almost feels like they have got into the Disneyland-like experience of going to see theatre in a bingeing way, so it’s great to be part of this wonderful buffet at Fringe.

One Man Star Wars was performed over 1,200 times in over 180 cities across four continents. Are you hoping to do the same with One Man Stranger Things?

We’ll see! What if Stranger Things goes on for 20 seasons? If the show goes on to encapsulate all of them, it would be a long, long, production but I’ll happily do it for as long as people love Stranger Things.

Do you have to be a Stranger Things fan to enjoy the show?

I think so. I’m the type of person who always urges people to binge watch because people who had never seen Star Wars came to my one man Star Wars show, and I think “what do they get out of it?!”

However, if you enjoy seeing solo performance, this show is extremely frenetic and it’s full of parody and humour so it’s not actually not so specific to having seen Stranger Things. It’s full of jokes, and I try to get as many in as possible. When you have 18 hours of source material to reduce down into an hour – or half an hour per season – you really have to stretch what you’re trying to get the laughs from.

If you’ve never seen Stranger Things, I would give this a try. If you’ve only seen Season One, run after the first half-hour (laughs). If you’ve seen all of it, then come binge watch – it’ll be worth it!

ONE MAN STRANGER THINGS NEW IMAGE2cropHave you received any feedback from Stranger Things themselves?

Not yet as it’s still a young show. The girlfriend of Finn Wolfhard – who is the character of Mike – came to the show. Actually, my buddy teaches him Drama so that’s a strange connection. But I think eventually, I’ll have one of their bums in seats!

How did it feel as a Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fan to have the seal of approval from Sir McKellen and have One Man Star Wars licensed by George Lucas?

Ian McKellen was such a delight and a surprise to come see the show. I was doing a fringe tour in North America, and I look out into the audience and there’s Ian McKellen, so I was a little bit terrified but I thought “what a great show for him to see!”

He invited me to lunch on the movie set that he was working on. It was great to have a bit of a recce on how to jump through the legal hoops with the Lord of the Rings folks, and it was a lot more difficult than you might think. The Star Wars one had worked just fine, but this proved to be a lot more labyrinthine.

Fans of Stranger Things, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings often have encyclopaedic knowledge. Despite being a parody, is retaining accuracy still very much in your mind?

Yeah, as much as possible. You can’t change the story, but at the same time I love that it’s such an emblematic show referencing so many different source materials. I don’t poke fun, but highlight these references to a younger part of the audience who perhaps don’t know exactly what they are.

Also, they can be a bit serious with their obsessions, so have you received any scepticism?

I find those type of people don’t come to see my shows because they sit in some dark world that’s theirs and they don’t let anything else in. Clearly this is coming from a love point of view, and not taking the mick.

What comic inspirations go into your shows?

John Cleese, without a doubt. I love his frenetic, gung-ho, fire your heart out of a cannon onstage for everyone to stomp on. I also love being able to make myself look terrible, so that people can enjoy laughing at me and I can enjoy laughing at them.

He’s probably my biggest inspiration since being a kid. Where I grew up in this northern part of Canada, most of what I had for entertainment was on video that we used to tape off the public broadcasting service. We had BBC every Saturday night, and we would get four Doctor Who’s, and four episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and I was in my absolute element glued to the television. I just didn’t want it to end, and as soon as I had cycled through all of them, I would start over again from the beginning. My sisters and I had this blank tape too with an eight-hour running time, but we ended up recording over each other’s stuff, so I had Close Encounters of the Third Kind and then an episode of Neighbours about five minutes in – I could’ve killed them!

You certainly give your all onstage and it looks an exhausting experience…

No, being a father of a four-year-old can be more exhausting!

With it being just you, is the thought of forgetting your lines terrifying, or is it easier to gloss over in the framework of a parody?

I forget my lines all the time, and I couldn’t care less! It’s the wonderful thing about looking like an ass onstage – own it, wear it! I think if I was doing straight-up, proper theatre, you would be trying to hide it. Of course I would then have to learn my lines verbatim, and I would want to be naughty!

Stranger Things is very 80s in terms of its music, fonts and kids being the central characters. How successfully do you think they replicated that era compared to your favourite 80s films?

I think with Stranger Things you get a real idea of left-overs from the 70s. There’s a hangover from the cocaine, disco, drinking era where you’ve got people who are trying to be parents now, and families have broken apart like in Stranger Things. Children are messed up and slightly neglected by their parents, who are still screwed up and are drinking to forget.

In the meantime, these kids are having adventures in another dimension and some of the characters don’t even notice. I’m not saying that happened to myself in the 80s, but a lot of parents didn’t notice their kids during their drug phases or being bullied. I think Stanger Things does it quite well in that sense.

Also, they’ve done the Steven Spielberg model of embedding the product placement. They’ve referenced an Eggo’s toaster waffle so they don’t have to have a commercial break in there, and it actually reminds us of watching a Spielberg film. They’ve got Reese’s Pieces in ET, and it’s a main point that ET loves these little candies, and we all loved them as children because ET loves them. Eggo’s would’ve been most popular in the 80s, but they’re terrible really – you can only imagine how bad the food Eleven was eating every day!

Who is your favourite Stranger Things character to perform? Are there any you don’t like as much or are more difficult to imitate?

I think they’re all hard especially when I’m imitating children. I really enjoy Paul Reiser, and then Winona Ryder is so emphatic and over the top with everything she does. It’s great that they were able to cast her as she was an 80s A-lister, and she gives it an air of 80s authenticity.

The same with Matthew Modine. The 80s actors are there, and we’re going to go “I loved them in this, and I loved them in that”, and it’s wonderful to see them all still working. I always had a crush on Winona Ryder as a kid, and as I get older I’m still like “Winona, you’re so beautiful!”

In a nutshell, what makes One Man Stranger Things unmissable?

It’s the spirit of the 80s, and being a kid watching a full-grown 44-year-old man acting like he’s eight years old. It’s taking all the magic of Stranger Things and making into my own show. It feels like I wrote the TV show rather than I’m parodying it. This is the childhood I had, and I want to share that with everybody.

Tickets are £24 (plus an optional £1 postage fee). To book your seats, please visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444.