Bloody Trams
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 11th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

I’ve often wondered how Edinburgh locals truly feel about the Fringe - is it a huge party or just a massive disruption? Given the wealth of subjects from around the world being dealt with, just how much do they feel their festival truly belongs to them? This is why it’s nice to see a show like Bloody Trams which has Edinburgh people talking about Edinburgh issues.

Bloody Trams is Edinburgh to the core. It’s a deeply personal message, anger wrapped in wry humour and worth seeing for a bit of an insight into our gracious host city.

Bloody Trams deals, as you might expect, with the fiasco of the recently completed Transport for Edinburgh project, told verbatim from recorded interviews by the tiny two-person cast of Jonathan Holt and Nicola Roy, assisted by composer David Paul Jones on the piano. This trio offer a powerhouse performance, managing to create over forty entirely distinct characters between them with only the aid of a few hats and coats. They sing, they dance and they manage to transform a matter of city planning into a riveting 60 minutes.

Talented as the performers are, though, at least half of what gives the show its interest is actually its subject matter. As an outsider to the city I was distantly aware of the ongoing saga, curiously noting its lack of completion year after year. What I couldn’t have seen in those snapshots is the toll it was taking on the city and its residents.

The show opens with an incredibly prescient letter to The Scotsman. This letter from the 1950s warns of the perils of replacing Edinburgh’s previous tram system with the “oil bus” and ends by telling the city that, if they choose to push ahead, they will surely regret it in time. Cut to 2014 and the reactions of Edinburgh citizens to the new, modern tram system, eleven years in the making.

These reactions range from the optimistic to the bemused to the downright disappointed. Cyclists complain of the number of injuries caused by running their bike-wheels into the tracks, students complain of the constant ding-ding of the passing tram-cars but, when it comes to the shopkeepers, things take a much more sombre turn. Here begins a story of shop-fronts forcibly boarded-up for weeks and months on end, premises left without running water for two years or flooded with raw sewage overnight, of family businesses at risk after hundreds of years of trading because no-one can get to them any more. Of officials offering a £4000 “help package” for these shop owners only on condition that they sign away all rights for future legal challenges.

A few of the interviews appear to wander slightly from the point - the homeless man on Princes Street for example - but by the time speakers are comparing the cost of the trams with the cost of paving the streets with gold, you can see why this is a subject which has audience members standing up and chiming in with their own contributions.

Bloody Trams is Edinburgh to the core. It’s a deeply personal message, anger wrapped in wry humour and worth seeing for a bit of an insight into our gracious host city.

Reviews by Tom King


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The Blurb

Bloody Trams is a response to one of Edinburgh’s most contested and emotive debates of recent times. Following a successful Traverse premiere earlier this spring, join us this August for the next instalment in this piece of verbatim satire, based on the stories and testimony of the people of Edinburgh.