Nina’s Got News had potential.
Although, actually, that should have been the red flag immediately. It wasn’t just listed, anywhere, as Nina’s Got News. It was listed as Nina’s Got News By Frank Skinner. It was very much playing off the fact that it was written by someone who is, on the whole, entertaining and funny.
Nina’s Got News was one of four plays that came about following a quest by Avalon and the BBC to discover four new playwrights who would have their work debuted at the Fringe. Of those four, two were Frank Skinner and Katherine Parkinson (Jen from the IT Crowd). These two, curiously enough, were also given top billing on any of the marketing materials for the four pieces of theatre. And I could be even more cynical and point out that Avalon – the people behind the competition – are also the people who manage Frank Skinner. But I wouldn’t do that.
One of the four plays was dumped pretty close to the start of the Fringe because of production problems. Whatever that means. It certainly can’t have been any sort of quality control issue because… well… Nina’s Got News.
So, what you get with Nina’s Got News is a play about a woman, Nina, who has news. She wants to share this news with her ex-boyfriend and her best friend. Her ex, who arrives first, has a very strange conversation with Nina revolving around him having seen her vagina and whether it is ok to still imagine that self-same vagina when he has alone time. The word vagina is used way too much. And you’re only five minutes in.
Nina’s best friend arrives. And she’s a bitch, in all honesty. And so is Nina. The ex is better off out of it all, to be honest.
Then there’s a lot of stuff about what the news is and when it boils down to it, it’s that Nina can levitate.
And then comes pages of dialogue about whether she really can, whether it can be believed, what belief is and a teensy little shoehorn mention of praying because Frank Skinner does love his religion. The upshot is that Nina can levitate. And her best friend has x-ray vision. The ex-boyfriend has nothing except the acquaintance of two women who are complete cows and who just happen to have super powers which you can’t help thinking they’ll use for some sort of bitch-based shenanigans.
We spent a lot of the time during the play glancing round the audience to see who was blatantly asleep. This wasn’t a late show. It was mid-afternoon. But people were having a good old snooze through this one. A daughter, at one point, was nestled on her father’s shoulder, such was the level of slumber. If we hadn’t have had that, and Carole hadn’t got her notebook with her to doodle in and write down who was sleeping and where they were seated, we too would probably have nodded off.
I think part of the problem with the play, aside from two of the three characters being thoroughly unlikeable, was that it was written like Frank Skinner had never heard anyone speak before. Ever. I am sure he has, though. He does a radio show every Saturday morning with two other people who definitely speak. So he certainly has some experience in that field. But the dialogue was awful – and not just the numerous vagina references in the opening bit. It was just crap throughout it all.
If I’d got wind that this play writing competition for people who had never written plays before was underway, I could have submitted something equally as bad. But, alas, I did not. And so this was the result.
We Googled the reviews as we were walking into the performance space. When a page of 1-star reviews opened up, we both groaned and had a serious discussion about just heading for the nearest exit as soon as we could. But we stuck with it. After all, reviews have been wrong in the past.
Turns out these were not. These were bloody well spot on.
Still, it wasn’t all bad news. I wasn’t convinced even when booking the tickets back at the end of June, so I’d cunningly booked them on one of the 2-for-1 days. I’d have hated to have been in a position where I felt I had to enjoy it because I’d paid full price.
Dodged a bullet there. Although we were still hit by another one, in that we saw the play at all.