MATT OLIVER prepares to be scared at a new show for teenagers coming to Summertown

Macabre events, grotesque puppets and “psychologically disturbing” subject matter are what producer Dik Downey is hoping will bring teenagers flocking to his new show Shop of Little Horrors.

“We want teenagers to be able to go and have an experience they enjoy, not one they endure, so we’re aiming it at anyone over 12,” Dik said.

So what makes it so terrifying? “It’s the subject matter. It’s psychologically disturbing. We have some pretty grotesque ventriloquist puppets – and it’s already pretty scary without those anyway.

“They’re unsettling. You’re not sure who’s in control.”

Dik, 50, produces and stars in the show, which the North Wall describes as “dark and twisted”.

And yet ask about the similarity to the famous comedy and musical Little Shop of Horrors, he says they are by no means the same beast. “I thought it was quite a good play on words and it’s come back to bite me,” he admits. “But when people come to watch, they’ll see it’s very different. There are no carnivorous plants in this show.

“So really it’s an adult show for anyone with a sense of humour, an appreciation of the macabre and those who like to be excited.”

Dik’s production company, Pickled Image, is co-producing Shop of Little Horrors with the North Wall, a first for the Summertown arts centre. So why did the two groups decide to team up?

“The idea of Shop of Little Horrors intrigued us. We liked the idea of something grotesque, scary and something with an edge – that’s what we’re all about at the North Wall,” said centre manager Sherrell Perkin.

“We’ve worked with Pickled Image before and they’ve got a fantastic reputation. They make feisty productions for adults which specialise in puppetry,” she says.

So how would Sherrell describe the show? “It’s about things that go bump in the night,” she says. “It’s scary, but it’s got humour too and it’s fun. A sci-fi, comedy, horror. They’re calling the style ‘a wicked sense of humour,” she laughs, “but I think anyone who loves puppetry and physical theatre, or who likes to have a laugh and be scared, will enjoy it.”

For those who don’t know what to expect, Shop of Little Horrors is described by Dik as “a dilapidated shop on the outskirts of Nowhere, where corny magic tricks and strange puppets collect dust and cobwebs.” Dik plays owner Mr Grimlake, who is looking for a successor. “He’s a genteel, lovable old puppet maker,” Dik teases, “not at all sinister in the slightest... or is he?”

You’ll have to go and see the show for yourself to find out.

Shop of Little Horrors is at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, from May 29 until June 1 at 8pm every night. Tickets cost £13, £11 for concessions and £5 for students.