The Shop of Little Horrors

Wed 29th May – Sat 1st June 2013


Rosie Oxbury

at 09:46 on 31st May 2013



I was apprehensive about 'Little Shop of Horros': the play described itself as “dark and twisted”, but I hadn’t expected anything quite so ghoulish as what presented itself – eery fairground music playing over a set which looked like something between Frankenstein and Scooby Doo. There was what looked like part of a body on the workshop counter; the word that came to mind was “macabre”. However, what ensued turned out to be surprisingly light-hearted. In fact it was delightfully silly, laugh-out-loud comedy.

There was something mischievous about the humour: one shouldn’t laugh at an apparently schizophrenic serial killer, especially not one who builds puppets from his victims, but it was just very funny. It would be wrong to say that it didn’t try to be clever, because I did feel that the piece overall was very witty, but the dialogue seemed surprisingly simple and casual – it almost felt like improv. The actors (Dik Downey and Adam Blake) interacted very well with the audience, timing punch lines perfectly and at other times, holding us in suspense. The play opened with Mr Grimlake tending to a puppet – “Mother” – whose back was to the audience. As he did her eyeshadow – “Don’t scrunch your eyes up!” – you could feel the audience waiting with baited breath to catch a first glimpse of the puppet’s face, even as we were laughing at Grimlake’s apparently one-sided conversation with an inanimate object.

I was sceptical about going to see what claimed to be a puppet show. However, as it turned out, the drama was carried mainly through interaction between the actors, although there were a couple of instants of very impressive ventriloquy. The puppets themselves were brilliant (made by Pickled Image, Emma Powell and Rebecca Prior). At one point, Grimlake, holding out one of his puppets to Eric says “A work of art, isn’t he?” and it’s no lie: the faces are beautifully detailed, done in the style of caricatures. They struck the right balance of sympathetic and creepy with their wide, too-blue eyes – decidedly uncanny. The masks – by means of which the two actors played two or three characters each – similarly were fantastically detailed and very effective: these were sufficiently surreal, but not too outlandish.

Although the production was gruesome at points and momentarily terrifying at others – cashing in on old clichés of horror (but no less effective for that) such as loud noises, sudden flashes of light and heavy use of violin music – it was not truly horrifying. Its horror was deliberately overdone and tongue-in-cheek; the puppets, and the pathos and comedy that came from Grimlake’s relationship with them, were the main feature. I would definitely recommend this play to anyone who wants an evening of pure entertainment.


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