All aboard for the most exhilarating immersive theatre experience around... or perhaps I've said too much?
There are two problems with writing about You Me Bum Bum Train…
The first is that I don’t want to tell you too much; there’s a chance I may spoil one of the best entertainment experiences you’ll ever have in your life.
Secondly, as a participant or ‘passenger’, I signed a pretty comprehensive non-disclosure agreement. Thankfully, Methods Unsound’s lawyers are more Lionel Hutz than Johnnie Cochran but I still have to tread carefully.
So how to sum up the essence of You Me Bum Bum Train without ruining the surprise while simultaneously dodging the wrath of IP lawyers? I can talk broadly about a ‘show’ that I went to in central ‘London’, but certainly not the content of individual ‘scenes’. (It’s definitely in London – on Charing Cross Road in fact.)
You Me Bum Bum Train (YMBBT to friends and lawyers) was conceived in 2004 by artists Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd. The show (if you can call it that) has had several iterations since then and has been nominated for an Olivier Award along the way. YMBBT is normally a ‘pop-up’, occupying various locations across the capital, always limited runs, always shrouded in secrecy and tickets are always damn hard to come by.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket after my friend won two in the ballot and offered me one (thanks George). It was he who first told me about YMBBT a few years ago and I’ve been intrigued ever since. I think it’s because of the aubergine logo rather than the name though. Other information on their website is scant to say the least.
Having pre-registered with ID and contact details (mainly to avoid touts) we were given a location and time to arrive. The rules specifically state that you shouldn’t be inebriated. One pint was about enough to shake off a few nerves caused by the ‘what the hell am I about to do feeling’ which had taken hold.
Once at the venue, you are weighed(!), photographed and asked to sign extensive paperwork including a health questionnaire. Then the journey begins.
Depending on how you look at it, it’s a show without an audience, or an audience without a show. You’re confronted with startling realism which makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable, while giving you a take-on-the-world euphoria. It’s educational, thought-provoking, moving, funny. You find out a lot about yourself. It covers everything from current affairs, ethics and everyday moral dilemmas. There’s a loving and excruciating attention to detail, which you appreciate even more in the days and weeks afterwards when you think back to the evening. Which you will do. You can’t help but be reminded by it, have flashbacks, questioning whether you’re remembering it right and is there anything you’ve forgotten? Made worse by the non-disclosure agreement and the inability for non-YMBBTers to really understand.
After what felt like a few days (which was in fact 45 mins) we left the venue on the highest of highs. It is an absolutely incredible experience. A few people have drawn comparisons to Franz Kafka’s The Trial, where the protagonist Josef K. finds himself in unexpectedly ludicrous situations where everyone present is fully expecting him, and they know more about him than he does.
What I’m trying to convey is the sheer excitement that YMBBT provokes even when thinking back on it. It has been three months now.
Tickets are available for sale in 2016 via a ballot. Registration closes on Thursday 4th February at 4pm. I urge you to enter this ballot. All aboard!