When Nina (Jessica Clark) invites her ex-boyfriend Chris (Rob Auton) and one of her closest friends Vanessa (Breffni Holahan) to hers because she has some news, I was prepared for an hour of hard hitting and thought provocative performance. I was exceptionally disappointed.
Nina’s Got News was co-produced by BBC Arts and talent management company Avalon, under a scheme to promote new writing for stage. However, given that the play was written by Frank Skinner, who is no stranger to the Fringe after winning the Perrier Award, the decision to promote his show over that of completely fresh talent is a curious one. Even more so given how lacklustre the writing was.
The play began with Nina and her ex-boyfriend trading barbed words and discussing their ended relationship. But even at this early stage the play started to display its substandard writing, making some trying jokes about premature ejaculation and vagina quips whose delivery was as stiff and awkward as the writing. Things only got worse when Vanessa turned up, doubling down on the lazy, low quality ‘jokes’, and being overt to the point of annoyance as her disdain towards Chris. Frank Skinner may have a quick one-liner for every occasion, but pumping them out at every opportunity robs the characters of even the slightest chance of humanity.
All of this served to tortuously prolong the delivery of the news, which was that Nina had developed superpowers. The two camps were split straight into scepticism and faith, which they then did absolutely nothing with. It comes across more as an overstretched sketch, or an episode of a sitcom that gets cancelled after a single season. It couldn't decide what exactly it wanted to be or say, resulting in a mess that said nothing.
The more I think about it, the more this play annoys me. At every opportunity when it had the chance to develop the plot or the characters, it instead chose nonsense. Nina’s Got News could have been something serious, and while the development of superpowers had the potential to open unexpected but interesting avenues, nothing came of it. There were aspects of Chris’ obsessive, stalker-like behaviour towards Nina that could have been explored, but the show did nothing to expand on it. In fact, the show did absolutely nothing of value or interest at any point.
This play had such promise and good will, but felt completely wasted within the first 10 minutes, and made no effort to claim it back.