Live: Patti Plinko and her Boy @ Leicester Square Theatre

A portable record player sits atop a piano under a solitary spotlight, and from it emerges a dark and unholy voice, oom-pah-pahing whilst the boy, attired in boiler suit and gas mask, lurks in the shadows. Patti Plinko wouldn’t be out of place in an air raid shelter circa 1941, and the boy would be out of place anywhere. Together they put on a show that keeps the temporary inhabitants of this particular underground bunker in Leicester Square enthralled for the better part of an hour.

This particular ukulele player couldn’t be further from perkiness if she performed dissections live on stage. Even the songs she describes as ‘jollier numbers’ address death, suicide and betrayal. One such ditty follows a beaten wife who is driven to kill her husband ‘stone-cold death in the marketplace’.

A cover of Nirvana’s ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?,’ punctuated with maniacal laughter and the crazy plucking of the uke, is so sinister it would have Mr Cobain quaking in his boots. Their song based on Brief Encounter and the miserable plight of Celia Johnson’s character, constantly poised to jump onto the train tracks, denies us a twee viewpoint on this black and white classic.

The dynamic between Plinko and her Boy is theatrically fascinating. The man’s guitar playing prowess shines out from the muted backdrop of his blacked-out persona. On occassion his exuberance is controlled by the calm raising of a hand from Plinko, who sits to play her ukulele.

The pair describe their closing number as “an upbeat, mellow song about suicide that you can dance to”. It’s about a girl called Isobel, who decides to throw herself off Tower Bridge, and it’s a fabulous end to a fabulous evening. 

This pair are reprising their Leicester Square theatre appearance for a third time on May 20th. They’ve sold out for every previous show, so get a wriggle on if you fancy seeing this manic brilliance for yourself.

Words: Helen True