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The Nap review at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield – ‘uproariously funny’

Ralf Little in The Nap. Photo: Mark Douet Ralf Little in The Nap. Photo: Mark Douet
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A comedy about snooker? It might sound unlikely but Richard Bean pulls it off and he does so at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, home of the World Snooker Championships for nearly 40 years now – it’s surprising that nobody’s seen fit to attempt it before.

As you’d expect from Bean and a director like Richard Wilson, there’s a richly comic vein running through The Nap. It tells the story of Dylan Spokes, an up and coming snooker star, played by Jack O’Connell, who’s blackmailed to throw a frame by a transgender gangster with a robotic arm. The one-liners come quick and fast, allowing both Mark Addy and Ralf Little to display some excellent comic timing. Addy’s role is the larger – he’s loveable and roguish, brilliantly deadpan – but Little’s turn as Spokes’ oily manager feels more complete.

There’s a strongly moral core to The Nap, and this where O’Connell excels – he’s essentially the straight man here, but his evident pain at the thought of being exposed as a cheat really resonates. James Cotterill’s smart set is incredibly effective, a realistically down-at-heel snooker hall that transforms for the glitzy final – a scene which gives the audience the slightly surreal sensation of investing in and cheering on a fictional snooker match.

It’s not a perfect play – the central romance between O’Connell and Rochenda Sandall never quite convinces, nor does the fairy tale ending. Yet it’s a witty and energetic and, at times, uproariously funny piece of writing which captures the excitement of the sport – and even non-snooker fans are likely to find themselves rooting for Dylan to pot that final black.

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Uproariously funny tale set among the green baize that's not just for snooker fans