Now, I have to admit I’ve only been to the theatre a handful of times and I’ve never watched more than 20 minutes of a snooker match. In short, I’m no buff on either topic, but even I could recognise what a wonderful piece of theatre The Nap is.
Set in Sheffield, which has hosted the World Snooker Championships since 1977, The Nap follows the story of Dylan Spokes, born and bred on Eccy Road and played by Jack O’Connell. Dylan’s been playing snooker since he was a lad thanks to the support of the instantly loveable Bobby Spokes, his dad, played by Mark Addy.
The play opens in a darkened working men’s club, the only light an orange glow streaming in from the hallway outside. The set itself is pleasingly realistic, complete with worn tables and stools, a flickering strip light and a forgotten vending machine. A man enters. He switches on the lights, sets down his cue case and meticulously prepares the snooker table, running his hands along the felt and carefully placing each ball. The man is Dylan, and it’s clear to the audience that when it comes to snooker, he’s serious.
The drama of the opening scene is soon interrupted, as Bobby enters, plastic bag in hand, its contents a triangle sandwich and a couple of cans of cheap beer. He lightens the atmosphere immediately as he paces the set, looking the audience up and down as if surveying the walls of the club, brandishing it a dump and quipping that “it’s no Crucible, eh?”
The other characters, including Dylan’s slick-haired manager, Tony Danlino (Ralf Little), are wonderfully recognisable, relatable and very funny. And as you might expect, there are also scenes of live snooker, played both by O’Connell and John Astley, a real-life snooker player-come-coach who sees his acting debut in The Nap.
Whether you’re a fan of snooker or not, I can guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this lovingly local gem. The Nap runs until 2 April at The Crucible. For more information and tickets, visit sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.
Words: Danielle Mustarde