Nina’s Got News

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.

 

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Poltergeist

I think we’re haunted. It’s the only real explanation for where we find ourselves.

We went up to Edinburgh a week ago. We arrived back on Friday. Before we left we tidied the house up, did all the cleaning, all the washing. Everything, basically.

While we were away my mum was here. She cleaned everything we’d already cleaned and things we hadn’t thought of. Despite telling her we’d already done it, I think she stripped our bed off and washed everything – the duvet has a characteristic this-is-what-mum-does-now feel to it. She’s cleaned and ironed. She’s done more washing, despite us doing it all and her being the only person in the house.

So, aside from the cutlery drawer which is just carnage, mum kept our house clean as a whistle while we were off.

We came back late on Friday and more-or-less went straight to bed. On Saturday I was at work and Carole was out with my mum for a decent portion of the day. On Sunday we were out almost all the day in Derby.

We’ve barely been here.

So who has messed the house up??

It can’t be us.

So it must be a poltergeist. It’s the only logical explanation.

I feel like I should set up cameras to maybe catch the spirit in action, messing stuff up. I mean, do poltergeists like leaving recycling around the place? Will poltergeists leave half-drunk bottles of water everywhere? Or generate stacks if ironing. Or more washing up than two people could possibly generate?

It sounds plausible to me…

 

Fear Factor

We’ve done ten escape rooms in the last week. That’s nearly more than we’d done in total up to the start of last week. And they’ve all been good.

Today we went to Unescapable in Derby to play their two rooms – Tommy and Edith.

Edith is a scary room, which involves lights going on and off and the game host running around trying to put the willies up you (so to speak).

Carole screamed at everything. And told our lovely game host to fuck off about sixteen times.

It was very entertaining.

The room itself (in fact both of the rooms), puzzle-wise, are pretty sparse. The rooms at Unescapable are more about the atmosphere and the story than the puzzle-solving. Which is a little bit weird. I’d prefer a bit more puzzling, to be honest. But having said that, it’s very hard to concentrate on a puzzle while your other half is screaming that someone’s going to leap out at them every few seconds.

Which they didn’t really do. The fear came from the anticipation, I guess. I don’t know. I was dead to it all. For me the lights going out, people running in the darkness or whatever else was just an inconvenience. It was like, I want to get from place to place or whatever but because you’re turning the lights out on me I’m finding it much harder to do that. Also because it’s just a game and… well, you know.

Or because I’m dead inside. Not capable of feeling fear. Capable of having a little laugh as Carole was trapped on one side of a locked door and me on the other. She has a disgusting potty mouth, it turns out, when she’s in such an environment. It was quite shocking to see and hear.

But it was bloody good fun.

Ten games in a week, though.

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

 

Shakespeare For Breakfast

When Benjamin Franklin wasn’t outside flying a kite into a thunderstorm – health and safety being a lot looser in those days – he occasionally said things that people still say to this day.

For example, nothing is certain but death and taxes.

If he hadn’t died in 1774, and had lived long enough to experience the Edinburgh Fringe he would probably have added “and bumping into a bloody mime” to the end of that sentence. Or, if you were really lucky, “making sure you have a ticket to see Shakespeare For Breakfast”.

Shakespeare For Breakfast is a funny onion. It’s on at 10am, so you have to be a dedicated so-and-so to go and see it. The mornings during Fringe are traditionally the times when children are seeing people blow bubbles or make fart jokes. But there’s also this treasure of culture. A spot of Shakespeare before lunch. Marvellous.

Shakespeare For Breakfast has been running for a good few years now – 37 I think, but I could be miles out. I saw it on a poster, remember going “oh” but without really drinking in the information. I have been going to see it since I first ventured Fringeward. It’s a definite, no questions asked, booking for me each year. I love it.

There are two reasons I love it.

  1. The croissants.
  2. The cast.

Croissants first. I think I mentioned this last year, as I marvelled at the fact that someone – after however many years of wanting it to happen – sat on theirs. This year a woman took the one on the seat next to mine and buggered off with it still in her hand. Then another woman came along and sat down with no croissant as I sat and ate mine. You and I both know she thought I was eating hers.

The croissants also add an element of danger to the proceedings. Because even though people return year after year to see the show, the sight of a pastry on their seat throws them. And they can’t work out how to move it and sit down. Especially when you couple that with the hot beverage you’ve gotten as you queued up, plus any baggage you have with you. Endless entertainment abounds.

And then the show starts, so onto point number 2.

This year’s show carried the same cast as last year – Chris, John, Emily and Roseanna. Laura, as they casually throw in during the show, is off “being a Teletubby”.

These guys are brilliant, and probably my favourite Shakespeare For Breakfast cast,  for a number of reasons. For starters they’re genuinely entertaining to watch. They write brilliant jokes and painfully funny puns. They break the fourth wall more often than Deadpool. And they never, ever pass up an opportunity to make each other laugh. And with Laura off doing whatever she’s doing with Tinky Winky, they also make plenty of reference to not having enough cast members to do the show.

Watch out members of the audience sitting in the front row.

Everything has a beautiful, playful air to it. This is four friends titting about who just happen to be bringing you an off-the-wall interpretation of a Shakespeare as they’re doing it. It’s beautiful. It’s joyful. And there are callbacks that go all the way back to last year’s show.

It’s a beautiful way to spend fifty minutes in a morning. It’s like slipping into a nice sweater, or enjoying a massive hug. There’s not a single bad about it.

Apart from that woman thinking I ate her croissant.

 

 

Home

We’re on the A1 now. Somewhere between Edinburgh and home. We’re tired, but happy. But also sad because fun is behind us and normal life is in front.

The week has been good to us. There have been highs – so, so many highs – and just the one low.

It’s probably our best good:bad shows ratio of all time, in fact. Last year was a complete shit storm – so many bad shows seen on a whim. We’re learning and evolving.

We’ve also escaped from eight escape rooms this week. That’s pretty good. I have really enjoyed doing them back-to-back like this – we should do it more often.

I have escaped the week with two blisters. One on each foot, in the exact same place.

We’ve eaten no macaroni pies. That’s the statistic that upsets me the most. I blame Greggs for ditching them in 2015. The bastards.

It’s been a great week.

But home is calling, and we have to accept.

Still, it’s only 350-something sleeps until next year…