Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd.
You Me Bum Bum Train was conceived in 2004 as just a little bit of fun. Kate Bond started a club night and created scenes that people could experience by being chaperoned around in a wheelchair. When she teamed up with Morgan Lloyd they got more serious about the idea, and the full-blown experience was born.
Since then You Me Bum Bum Train (even the creators arent sure how the title arose) has gone through numerous incarnations, and received the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award.
The 2010 version is taking place in the LEB Building at Bethnal Green, and has the honour of being the Barbicans fastest ever selling show. I cant say too much without spoiling the surprise, but each audience member has a forty-minute experience in which they ride the Bum Bum Train solo, being pushed around in a wheelchair from scenario to scenario.
The entire show is an inversion of the normal theatrical set-up. Normally, an audience member is one of a crowd watching an individual (or select group of individuals) on stage. Here the audience member becomes the centre of attention and the actors (some 200 volunteers) constitute the spectators. We can be translating a Swahili ambassadors speech one minute, or answering questions on a TV game show the next (all the examples here come from past shows, so as not to give the game away). It isnt all about thrills and spills, as some of the scenarios push us towards the bottom of the social hierarchy, but the emphasis is mainly upon living the high life.
You Me Bum Bum Train provides us with experiences that we may never have in real life, and it suddenly becomes easy to think on our feet and assume the necessary role. If someone is fitting us with a gum shield and a crowd is cheering us into the ring, it only seems natural to start adopting the attitude of a champion boxer. The set-up somehow gives us a unique legitimacy to embrace each part, and I know that in real life I would never have dreamt of behaving the way that I did in certain scenarios.
In one way, You Me Bum Bum Train fulfils our ultimate fantasies by making us the centre of attention. This is a world where others need us more than vice versa; where people will work entirely around us, brief us as necessary, and never hand us an ounce of boring donkey work. The flexibility we each show as we trip from one scene to another is like that of a government minister, having to turn from one issue to another in a moment, trying never to get caught out in an interview or blow an opportunity for some PR. In another way, the show allows us to see the world differently as we view familiar scenes from a completely new angle. In all of this, the sets are exquisite, and it is also impressive how things we say are then incorporated into the scenarios.
Anyone who shies away from any form of audience participation may prefer to steer clear of You Me Bum Bum Train, but given the ease with which we do find ourselves entering into each new role, I would heartily recommend it to most people. After all, who knows what life saving hero or rock star drummer may be lurking inside even the most reticent of us?