London Review: Immersive Cult Hit ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’

Cast list is kept secret.

You might call “You Me Bum Bum Train” the ride of a lifetime — only that would be underselling it. It’s the ride of several lifetimes at once. Morgan Lloyd and Kate Bond’s immersive cult-hit throws you into situations your own life never could — and it does so at such pace that you start to forget yourself. The show remains one of the most exhilarating, discombobulating, potentially even life-changing theatrical experiences going, and the latest incarnation is the best yet.

For around 45 minutes or so, you’re plunged into the middle of a major identity crisis. The Bum Bum Train is a rapid-fire succession of scenarios, each of which plonks you into the protagonist’s shoes. Participants — journalists in particular — are sworn to secrecy, but you might pop up at the lectern in the House of Commons one moment and the next find yourself waiting in line at a late-night soup kitchen.

With each door you open or each cupboard you crawl through, you step, completely unwittingly, into an entirely new encounter. Strangers greet you by name and hurl you straight into the action, always entirely convinced of your expertise. It’s on you to react. Imagine a network of back-to-back parallel universes. Imagine the Tardis short-circuiting.

Lloyd and Bond (pictured above) came up with the format as students: a kind of art-house fairground ride. They sat participants in wheelchairs and whizzed them through a maze of makeshift scenarios packed with volunteer actors. Back then, it was low-budget. You might come face-to-face with a cardboard bull or climb through an ice tunnel made out of duvets. Speed was the key. So was the shot of rum at the start.

Ten years on, the ambition, invention and accomplishment has grown beyond belief. They take over entire office blocks, knock through walls and sign up hundreds of volunteers. That’s proved controversial in the past, both as unpaid actors and as an undeclared audience, but Lloyd and Bond have ironed out those issues. It has become a huge cult hit, and tickets for this latest run sold out within an hour.

What makes this “Bum Bum Train” the best to date? It’s real – more so than ever. Lloyd and Bond have dared to engage with the world at large. In the past, it’s used fantasies and film cliches. Here, they force you out of your depth and never merely indulge us. Previous rounds have let us catch breath and play out fantasies. Not this time. The stress of scenarios, the speed of the route and the adrenaline of the physical ride keeps you reacting impulsively, only just in control. It’s like running faster than you can quite manage, almost always off-balance. You’ll surprise yourself — in good ways and bad — and this ride of a lifetime will make you reflect on your own.

Popular on Variety

London Review: Immersive Cult Hit 'You Me Bum Bum Train'

A secret location in London; £45.99 ($70) top. Opened, Sept. 22, 2015; reviewed Nov. 6. Running time: 45 MIN.

Production: An immersive You Me Bum Bum Train production.

Creative: Created by Morgan Lloyd and Kate Bond.

Cast: Cast list is kept secret.

More Legit

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

  • Bat Out of Hell review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Bat Out of Hell'

    No one has ever accused Jim Steinman of subtlety. The composer behind Meat Loaf’s 1977 “Bat Out of Hell” (more than 43 million albums sold worldwide) and 1993’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (five and six times platinum in the UK and US) has forever trafficked in a boldly theatrical brand of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content