We find out all about You Me Bum Bum Train and their experiential theatre choices...
Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd started making You Me Bum Bum Train in 2004. An experiential performance journey for one audience member at a time, YMBBT has been variously called live art, interactive comedy and experimental theatre. This month YMBBT is taking place at the LEB Building in Bethnal Green as part of barbicanbite10 and CREATE10. Kate Bond explains this unique happening...
After leaving university I had the inspiration to do something that would encourage people to be less inhibited and take them out of their self-conscious mode.
It dawned on me that we are limited as individuals in that we can only ever experience life from our own perspective. That’s where the concept came from to try and give people experiences that only others would have.
Thanks to my neighbour, who left me some inheritance, I was able to buy a load of wheelchairs and put on the first You Me Bum Bum Trainin Brighton. It was exactly the same format, where one audience member at a time is taken on a journey through different scenarios where they are the star. All these different mystery scenarios await the passengers, so the less information they know in advance the better. We change the scenes and venue every year so people don’t know what to expect. We would also never do a show in a traditional theatre.
When we first started the project, the lack of funding was restricting because we couldn’t afford to make it like reality. In hindsight, we made all the wrong decisions because we only had our creative brains on; we didn’t have any business input. We wasted years doing fund-raising events that raised tiny amounts of money. If you’re a creative person, get someone on board who’s got a business mind and have that balance.
It was frustrating at the beginning but now we’ve been given the Beckett Award we have the freedom to be more ambitious. The more the situations are real, subtle and true to life, the more impact they have. That audience member truly believes that they are this person and everything happening around them makes them believe that.
On every show we involve a large number of non-artists as performers who help to create the scenarios. It’s the biggest motley crew that you could have under one roof. Because the realities we create are diverse, they require a diverse range of people; we get every demographic you can imagine.
The format for the performers is unique compared to any other show. In rehearsals we drum into them the concept of how we’re aiming to make that individual passenger feel, but it’s not rigid because everyone has their own reactions. That unexpectedness is an important aspect. It’s not like the performers are just going through the motions, like actors going through their scripts – it’s really unpredictable.
It’s intriguing for each individual audience member to see how he or she reacts. We sometimes put them in a moral dilemma and it’s really interesting when they get to see whatever their reaction was. Maybe they weren’t the person that they thought they were.
We’re asked about how to define You Me Bum Bum Train, about judging it in a theatrical context, but it wasn’t even deemed to be theatre until last year when we applied for the award. We didn’t think about the bracket that it would be put in. We called it interactive comedy and live art but it doesn’t really matter to us. It’s a mystery adventure, a great big surprise party.
Kate Bond was talking to Jo Caird
Visit the You Me Bum Bum Train website
Images copyright Sam Trotman and Neil Kite