I first heard about YMBBT when I’d just arrived in London and had absolutely NO FRIENDS. So it was a perfect opportunity to be involved in theatre and meet some people who I might be able to turn into them (FRIENDS). What happened next stretched the edges of even my widest dreams.
The basic idea is that the audience travel through different rooms – full, 3D sets – one by one, so they’re the only audience in that scene at that time, although there could be up to 100 actors (whaaat? Yes, that’s right). They are thrown into a version of reality and are active participants in it, not just unseen observers. There are up to 20 rooms that make up their journey. The show came about when directors Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd felt disillusioned with the self indulgence of the theatre and art happening around them. Their idea was to create something that was entirely for the audience, that provided experiences they wouldn’t normally get to experience, and some they might be familiar with too. For example: my first night as an actor was in 2008, where for 6 Saturday nights in a row, I dolled myself up and stood in a fake queue to a fake nightclub I’d never get into. And I loved it.
The audience started in the nightclub, a glittery room where a gold suited DJ spun cheesy classics & the Margaritas were free. They left the club and walked down the metal stairs past us in the queue. Some drama students were keen to show how good at acting drunk they were, but Morgan quickly shut them down – one of the best things about YMBBT is how accurately they achieve a sense of reality – the acting is underplayed, understated, and the sets are intricately detailed, down to plug sockets in the walls, the smells, the outside sounds. The scenes are juxtaposed between quite normal, familiar experiences like the nightclub, to weirder ones like entering a boxing ring and being sparred with by a real boxer, or presenting a chat show and interviewing real celebrities (Stephen Fry, Jamie Oliver, Catherine Tate, Dominic West, Dexter Fletcher, Dermot O’Leary & Jonathan Ross all took part).
For the next full show in 2010 I became a Cast Manager and had charge of a scene, for which I had to recruit 50 volunteer actors to work for 5 hours a night, unpaid and in extreme conditions. Why did they agree to do it? It’s incredible to be part of something so wildly impossible. The look on that person’s face when they enter and you get to watch their mind being completely blown by what’s going on – there are temperature changes, playing with different levels, unexpected modes of transport… after the 2012 show, lots of audience asked how in the kebab shop scene they went from being on the 5th floor of a building to being suddenly outside? (They weren’t). When you go on the ride it moves to fast for your brain to process what’s just happened, so it feels a bit like you’ve just taken some really exciting mind altering substances. A bit like Quantum Leaping into different bodies in quick succession. And with no guide.
How? The show relies on the support of thousands of volunteers – cast and crew are all giving their time and expertise for no money, but not without return… The directors have tried to make it as valuable to volunteers as possible by providing training of skills like plumbing, carpentry, and offering experience in production roles, for example. When I did it, I was given an amazing amount of responsibility and… POWER. 5 years later, and it’s still the best job I’ve ever had. It felt amazing to be a vital part of something so crazy, ambitious, ridiculous and actually life changing. Although as a performer in the show you’re in one scene, repeating it up to 80 times a night, the unique reactions of each audience member keep it entertaining. The one thing that links the scenes is an outrageous sense of humour. You can tell Bond & Lloyd enjoy messing with the minds of their customers. Almost as much as they like posing in their underwear.
Tickets always sell out in a couple of hours, which makes sense (they worked out just to break even the actual cost of a ticket should be £1600) but is kind of unprecedented for a theatre show. So, there are no tickets left for this year’s show, BUT, you can still be involved by volunteering. This could be acting in scenes, leading a scene, helping with building, decorating, stage managing, recruiting… Anything you fancy. And you can do as many or as few shows as you choose. You don’t need any experience, talent, connections, bla bla bla. They even feed you if you come in for a full day.
For my part, I’d really recommend it. I got to feel really integral to something cutting edge that wasn’t wanky, meet some amazing people who’ve been vital connections in the work I do now, excel at being a BOSS and have a lot of fun at the same time.
Plus I did actually manage to make some friends.
If you want to be a volunteer, you can sign up to their swanky new database here: Volunteer!
Or, check out the website at You Me Bum Bum Train
Shows start in September and continue til early November
Secret Cinema’s Back for the Future was incredible and I was so proud to be a part of it. They recreated Hill Valley on a huge scale, including the Peabody Farm, Town Hall and Enchantment Under the Sea Dance at Hill Valley High School. Working for the Secret Post Office, I was employed as a 1950’s Post Office worker. We encouraged people to send mail to each other across the site, and then hand delivered it, with some hilarious results.
Secret Cinema brought Back to the Future to life in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London in July and August 2014. 80,000 travelled to 1955 to celebrate 70 years of Hill Valley’s infamous clock tower, making this the biggest event of its kind in history.Mayor Red Thomas was excited to meet the legendary Bob Gale, who hailed the 1955 Fair the ‘greatest…ever’.
Hill Valley was built featuring Otis Peabody’s Farm, suburban bungalows, Hill Valley High School, Lou’s Café and nearly 20 shops, offering a unique insight into the bustling town life, complete with a recently inaugurated Telephone Exchange System and the Secret Post Office. Residents and visitors were transported into the world of 1955 where, in the shadow of the life-size clock tower, Marvin Berry and the Starlighters headed up the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, come rain or shine. Local rock’n’rollers Jarvis Cocker and Alex Kapranos joined Marvin on stage to send Hill Valley off to another fantastic year.
We are very excited to launch the Hill Valley Stores, where you can purchase your favourite memorabilia from the Fair online.
Thank you to all those who attended the Fair. 1955 has been an amazing year for Hill Valley and its famous clock tower. Exciting news about the future will be coming soon. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
To be continued…
It was business as usual for the RSPLB, helping love happen all over Wilderness festival. Highlights included a couple from last year returning on their anniversary to thank us for our good work, the President’s Single’s Ramble, and many post festival dates being arranged out in the real world, thanks to us!
Here is a sound snippet from my one woman show – My Death. In this scene the main character receives a letter from her mother while she lies in her hospital bed. The backing music is the theme from the Antiques Roadshow.
One person shows are an exercise in vanity, perhaps, and remind me of my young self forcing my parents to sit through long winded performances, starring me, with no real attention given to the enjoyment of my audience – all that mattered was that I was good. They didn’t always attend willingly.
In many ways My Death is a show about shows, performance and the ego: a parody of how we present ourselves, what is acceptable, how we display our selves to the world. Kafka wrote somewhere (and I can’t find it anywhere) that all his writing was the same childish desire to imagine his funeral and feel vindicated at seeing how sorry people were that he had gone.
The central character has never known herself and so all is artifice. She becomes, at different moments, everything she thinks the audience want her to be. The irony and comedy is that if this were real, there would be no-one watching, and as a theatre piece, still nobody cares. She tries on different roles – the music hall beauty, the tragic opera dame, the religious martyr, the dummy, the RSC actor. And never once does she think about what she wants, craves, loves, longs or hopes for. It is only ‘What am I expected to do now?’ and ‘Who am I expected to be?’
Her realisation in her final breaths is that at last she doesn’t need to pretend – it is an idea which has never occurred to her before, and though she dies moments later it makes her whole life worthwhile. So this is it… And it is beautiful.
Suicide is a delicate, painful subject, and this show in no way means to trivialise it. Rather, it is a philosophical exploration of the purpose to life, and the assertion that to laugh at one’s darkness is also human – a means by which we bear this lonely burden.
The Lady is a pastiche of what we all go through – her affected speech, mannerisms and trivial worries. But what she decides to do is not trivial. In a sense she trivialises it herself because she does not understand what it means. She has never really been alive, in a true sense, so to give it up is no big deal. It is only when she decides to give it up she realises it now has worth since she no longer has to keep up a pretence – if she has admitted openly, in a group suicide note – that she is a failure, she has nothing to lose and can build from the ground up.
I’ll be performing on April 19th at the Rag Factory just off Brick Lane. Tickets are £5 and you can buy them here: http://ragfactory.ticketsource.co.uk/
This is a trailer for the Living Structures show i’m in that’s coming to Hackney Down Studios in July. We made this from our first run which was in Madrid’s Matadero Centre last year.
Tickets are now on sale here: