How the hell do you review a show whose secrecy is supposedly its strength? This immersive theatre show is far from intimate but it is deeply personal. My ride on the Bum Bum Train is loud, crowded and hot and weirdly, I’ve never learnt so much about myself in such a short space of time. What’s more, I can’t believe all this information about me comes thanks to strangers, most of whom don’t know how to pronounce my name.
Still, there’s a thrill when a stranger knows who you are and wants your opinion and you have to remind yourself that in reality, all they have is a name they’ve been given and this time it happens to be yours. The supremely brilliant cast of volunteers are there to shuttle you through a series of scenarios via a playground of pathways that send you up, down and through some very dark spaces. The idea being for you to discover who you are in each of these scenes. So, the best way I can think to give you an idea of what comes about in You Me Bum Bum Train without spoiling the surprise is to tell you what I learnt.
Turns out, I am bizarrely intimidated by capers, especially the big ones. I am a master bullshitter and but I have terrible hand-eye co-ordination. I work better in a team but I seriously mismanage my aggression. I do actually care what people think. I have A LOT of admiration for musicians and anyone who has to touch anybody else as part of their everyday job. I can step up when I need to after all. Also, in a creepier way than I’d like to admit, I am willing to humiliate others to get myself out of an awkward situation.
Lessons learnt and I’m through the final door and I’m back into reality but for a while I’m plagued by that Truman Show-feeling where you think everybody’s watching your reaction. But I’m just at the newsagents and the guy here really doesn’t give a damn. My head tells me to get a grip but it feels like my senses are temporarily heightened and I notice and start questioning everything. Who’s talking to whom? Where should I be looking? What should I be doing? Why are all those people over there? Are they anything to do with me? For a while life seems to be a lot more than it is. Conspiracy theories are abound and everyone is in cahoots.
While the feeling doesn’t last that long, the intense hit of theatre that is You Me Bum Bum Train lingers for long enough and I want another one soon. Partly because of those unpredictable scenarios but mostly because of my unpredictable reactions to them. To echo what so many have said before me, this is an intelligently crafted, excellently executed show that is moving and unforgettable, even if its intensity means its effects are a little delayed.
NB: There has been some discussion about this subsidised show which runs on volunteers and doesn’t pay the performers. Read producer Dan Baker’s thoughts on it.