It’s pretty fun when the nice young woman, whom you are sitting next to and chatting with, suddenly gets up and begins performing in the show. I was particularly curious to experience Back of the Bus by Java Dance Theater as I have a “thing” for mobile shows. What do I mean by mobile? I mean Back of the Bus is a musical dance performance that takes place both on and off an old-school double-decker bus as it travels throughout Edinburgh. We wandered into various non-traditional settings at least three times.
I spoke to Sacha Copland, Artistic Director, after the show and asked about some of the challenges and problems she’s had with presenting on a bus. She offered that to begin, there is the challenge of securing a bus! It is peak season in Edinburgh after all. Java Dance Theater company is based in New Zealand, but Back of the Bus has been produced around the world including Tokyo so that’s just a small hurdle.
Another challenge I saw firsthand was trying to gather your flock of audience members in the midst of Fringe chaos. It’s certainly more difficult than having people meet up in a theater, eh? Sacha emphasized that for anyone thinking to try a mobile show, the number one priority should be on safety — especially among the cast. The bus is moving, taking corners, and stopping while the performers are dancing about. From time to time they run into logistical problems too. She mentioned that last night they hit rush hour traffic and so the show ran about 20 minutes long. They have back up material for such happenings. Other times, a bus has taken a wrong turn or broken down. The key Sacha says is trying to anticipate all the possible things that could go wrong and have backup plans. Our show seemed to go off without a hitch.
I know what I got out of the show, but I was curious about Sacha’s vision for her audience experience. She sees Back of the Bus as an opportunity to break down boundaries and bring people together, which she notes is pretty much opposite of what normally happens on a bus. The show does do just that. Audience members find themselves on an hour-long romp around Edinburgh and ultimately become part of the show. I found myself laughing and singing alongside new friends by the end. The gal I locked arms with exclaimed, “Oh I just love not knowing what’s going to come next!” Thanks for the fun Java Dance Theater.