Ever wondered how it feels to rob a bank or host your own chat show? As the participatory theatrical adventure ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’ – in which audience members go round one by one and take part in the scenes – returns with a new immersive East End performance. I chatted to it’s creators Morgan Lloyd and Kate Bond…
How would you describe YMBBT to a total newbie?
‘The concept is to give individuals access to worlds they wouldn’t normally experience in their life so that they can jump into a series of new roles and gain hopefully magical experiences.’
What have you got planned for the new show?
‘The only thing we ever reveal about each new show is that it’s new scenes and a new venue – that’s your lot I’m afraid. There’s no scoop with the Bum Bum train! It will be in a mystery east London location…’
Three out of your last four shows have been in the East End. Do you find it an inspiring area?
‘This show is part of the Cultural Olympiad, so our funding was to do something in an Olympic borough to reach audiences in east London. We do like east London but that’s not to say that all our shows have to be there. Tower Hamlets council have been very supportive of us in the past, helping us find venues and that’s why we did the show there in 2010.’
Is there going to be an Olympics theme to your show at all?
‘All of it. Every scene is Olympic.’
How do you think you fit in with the east London arts scene?
‘We’re not necessarily trying to be a part of it. It’s more coincidental that we’re based there. It is exciting but we aren’t particularly up on it – we’re in our cocoon of Bum Bum Train, the outside world does not exist for us. We’re just there more for the cheap clothes and veg than the arts!’
How do people react to the show?
‘Because they have no idea of what they’re going to experience, it’s really interesting to see what each person comes out with in certain situations. A lot of show offs feel shy for the first time and many shy people can’t believe they could host a chat show for 80 people.’
What do you want people to get from the experience?
‘Somebody described it as an empathy machine. We heard that afterwards someone went from being a lawyer to a charity worker. Other people have come out of the closet and there was one person who decided to get a dog after the Crufts scene.’
How has YMBBT grown since your first production in 2004?
‘Some of the earlier ones were done on just £4,000 borrowed from our families, so there were limits to the worlds we could create. We’ve had funding for a couple of years now so we’ve been able to be more ambitious. However, funding never covers the cost of what it takes to put the show on – it needs people to jump on board. Each show is done with support from a massive group of volunteers. Last time 4000 people took part because they wanted to contribute for unknown strangers – it’s kind of like a big surprise party. It is really inspiring and shows a great side to human nature.’
Why do you think people volunteer?
‘The number of people who get to actually experience it are so few that this is a great way to be involved. It’s the biggest motley crew backstage you could imagine with people from 16 to 85 – everyone from doctors to alcoholics. There is no hierarchy and we don’t turn anyone away. It is a really fulfilling and uplifting experience and a lot of friendships are made. It’s so much more rewarding having a group achievement than one on your own. But getting to take the credit for everyone’s efforts as well is pretty good too!‘
Upcoming shows are on 19-26 July and 15 August – 19 September and you can check ticket availability on the Barbican website. The show is produced by You Me Bum Bum Train. Co-commissioned by the Barbican and CREATE and presented in association with Theatre Royal Stratford East.