His thoughtful, compelling work has deservedly received much praise. And his hit solo shows – including The Price of Everything, on the notion of value and how there are some things you just can’t put a price on, Going Viral exploring how viruses spread (including online gossip) which won a Fringe First Award in 2015, and Instructions for Border Crossing an interrogation of the human need for boundaries and borders in the context of the refugee crisis – have all made a big impression on critics and audiences alike.
Now living in Lancaster, Bye was previously based in Leeds where, prior to working as a writer-performer, he was a successful director for companies Red Ladder and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and he continues to do the majority of his work in the city.
For his latest show Arthur, which heads up to the Edinburgh Fringe at the end of this month, Bye will be co-starring with his baby son Arthur and he admits it could be his biggest challenge yet.
“I’m an experienced performer and an experienced dad but I’ve never done both at the same time before,” he laughs. “Obviously we inform audiences beforehand that Arthur’s needs are more important than the show, so if he needs his nappy changed or he needs to eat or sleep, then I will be doing that. The piece has to be built in such a way that we can roll with whatever happens.”
The concept of the show first came to Bye around three years ago when his daughter Dot was born. Her birth coincided with the emergence of the cutting-edge science of epigenetics – what Bye describes as “a new take on the nature vs nurture debate.”
Arthur will explore the different influences on a person’s life chances – from the genes passed on by previous generations to the number of books in your childhood home.
The aim of the show, which combines scientific facts, anecdotal evidence and stories, is to prompt people to rethink and question any preconceptions they may have.
“Whatever you think, it’s much more complicated than that,” says Bye whose wife Sarah Punshon is directing the piece. “In our work we have both been interested in a theatrical approach to scientific subjects, but this theme is human and emotional too. Where it becomes really interesting is when there is an interaction between genetic inheritance and domestic environment. So we thought that it could become really interesting as a show if we had a baby involved and we performed it in someone’s living room.”
And that is exactly what they will be doing throughout the month of August. Bye and five-month-old Arthur will be performing to audiences of no more than 10 people in homes in and around Edinburgh. As the son of theatre makers, Arthur’s own genetic inheritance will certainly be a contributory factor in the interactive performance. “He’s used to being in a rehearsal room surrounded by lots of adults,” says Bye. “And he makes noises, likes a cuddle, sings and cries – he tends to be quite entertaining.”
Arthur is at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from July 31-August 6; August 8-13, 15-20, 22-25 at 10.30am and 5.30pm. Booking www.edfringe.com