If you can imagine Harold Pinter and Alfred Hitchcock creating a puppet show together then you can get some idea of what to expect from Pickled Image’s new production The Shop of Little Horrors.

In an unnamed town there is a ramshackle shop run by decrepit puppet-maker Albert Grimlake who is looking for an apprentice who will hopefully take over the business in time. Muppet enthusiast Eric is delighted to be taken on, thinking it is the chance of a lifetime. But as the old saying goes ‘be careful what you wish for’ as there is more to Grimlake and his emporium than meets the eye. I find ventriloquist’s dummies pretty spooky at any time and in this be-cobwebbed and crumbly workshop doubly so. As the macabre plot unfolded I was on the edge of my seat — but in a good way. Disgusted by Eric’s passion for Muppets, Albert begins to teach him how to construct a proper dummy — a blackly humorous process — joining the body together and then putting the teeth and eyeballs in. A tough and pleasantly scary show, it’s also very funny. Employing some excellent mask work Dik Downey and Adam Blake, playing Albert and Eric, are able to double very convincingly as a nightmarish health and safety inspector and policeman who come to investigate what is really going on in the shop. In addition to Downey and Blake’s brilliant on-stage performances, a lot of credit must also be given to the director, Emma Williams, dramaturg Adam Peck, and the technical team behind the scenes — particularly the puppet makers, set and lighting designers and costumier. The North Wall Theatre, where I saw this show, has been programming some excellent and highly unusual entertainments this season. The Shop of Little Horrors certainly lives up to the high standard we have come to expect from this venue.