Generally speaking, it isn’t a good sign in the theatre when the cast outnumbers the audience, but You Me Bum Bum Train turns this dictum on its head, creating an exhilarating theatrical experience that involves hundreds of performers and an audience of one.
Originally created in Brighton by artists Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd in 2004, the show takes still further the practice of immersive and site-specific theatre popularised by such companies as Shunt, Punchdrunk and Cardboard Citizens. In other examples of immersive theatre, audience members share the performing space with the actors and react to what is going on - with You Me Bum Bum Train the spectator is the leading actor, thrust without warning into a series of giddy, disorientating and stimulating interactive situations.
And interact you most certainly do.
Given the code of silence that surrounds Bond and Lloyd’s creation (each audience member is sworn to secrecy), it’s not possible to go into details about the current show, but each scenario that unfolds is staged with remarkable authenticity, thanks to the participation of thousands of volunteers, lending their expertise and enthusiasm to the enterprise. (A previous version of the show involving 4,000 people was staged to great acclaim at the disused LEB Building in Bethnal Green in 2010.) For all the tangy, tactile realism of You Me Bum Bum Train, there’s definitely something surreal about the experience for the novice spectator, yet being plunged headlong into a series of roles ranging from the ordinary to the outlandish is strangely empowering and self-revelatory too.