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Nina’s Got News review at Pleasance, Edinburgh – ‘Frank Skinner’s flimsy debut play’

Jessica Clark and Rob Auton in Nina's Got News by Frank Skinner at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh. Photo: Rob McDougall Jessica Clark and Rob Auton in Nina's Got News by Frank Skinner at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh. Photo: Rob McDougall

BBC Arts’ new Debut scheme, co-produced with talent management and production company Avalon, was created to showcase the work of writers who have never written for the stage before.

It’s a curious project to say the least. Featuring new plays by Frank Skinner and Katherine Parkinson, it received considerable stick for opting for established names over emerging talent – and that was before the last-minute ditching of one of the four plays, Hoard, by journalist Bim Adewunmi.

In Skinner’s contribution, Nina (Jessica Clark) invites her ex-boyfriend Chris (comedian Rob Auton) over to tell him her big secret. She’s asked her friend Vanessa (Breffni Holahan) over too. After a lot of extremely laboured dialogue about premature ejaculation and some awkward vagina-related chat, Nina reveals that she’s recently developed a super power.

Nina’s Got News has the feeling of a skit rather than a properly developed play. The lines are stilted and Polina Kalinina’s production is sluggish, despite the best efforts of Clark and Holahan, both watchable performers. Auton’s laconic presence, however, also slows things down.

Presumably in part inspired by Skinner’s Catholicism, the play toys with ideas of belief. It also sets up the idea that Chris is a potential stalker – he obsesses about Nina’s other sexual partners and keeps a lock of her hair in a box – but the play doesn’t really do much with any of this.

It doesn’t do much of anything, really. Vagina gags do not a play make and the whole thing feels undercooked, tedious and spectacularly lacklustre. The play feels as if it has little reason to exist and even less to say, and makes the Debut scheme feel like a massive misstep.

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Frank Skinner's BBC-commissioned debut play is a flimsy and tedious comedy