★★★★★ The Nap | In this comedy thriller, up and coming snooker star, Dylan Spokes (Jack O’Connell) returns to his Sheffield home and is gearing up for his match in the World Championships, but is drawn into a police operation to target match fixing within the sport.

CREDIT: Mark Douet
CREDIT: Mark Douet

Wrestling with his conscience, Dylan reluctantly agrees to throw a frame of the match as requested by local gangster, Waxy, in a deal which will not only will enable the police to gather the evidence that they need but which will also place both Dylan and his family at risk.

Written by Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors), the script positively crackles with rapidly delivered, razor sharp, witty one liners, providing comedic interplay between the likeable characters. Richard Wilson’s direction draws out not only excellent performances from the entire cast but keeps the story and character development moving at breakneck speed and neatly balances the differing elements of the narrative, namely comedy, thriller and sports drama, creating an atmosphere which draws the in the audience entirely, doing so amongst a sea of belly laughs.

Jack O’Connell (Skins; Starred Up) proves irresistibly charismatic by playing to his strengths as the mouthy youngster with an underlying vulnerability; whilst Mark Addy (The Full Monty) offers up both perfect delivery and comic timing of the show’s script as Dylan’s father. Ralf Little (The Royle Family; Two Pints of Lager) ably demonstrates his experience in comedy as Tony, Dylan’s wheeler-dealer manager, but amongst a superbly strong cast, Louise Gold manages to steal the show and most of the scenes as Waxy Chuff, the tongue-tied local gangster, with a deadpan delivery of some of the shows funniest lines and one of the show’s most strongly written characters.

The set design, with its pub seat edging and cornered entrances, transformed the stage into something akin to a giant snooker table and turned the cast, as they bounced off each other, into a metaphor for the game itself. Simple transformations of the set shifted the location with great effect and the staging of the play at the spiritual home of the game itself meant that the simulated world snooker championship couldn’t have felt more authentic, even drawing gasps of breath from the audience over the narrowly missed shots. Playing two live snooker matches which have to adhere to the script and story line is a risk which pays off, by adding tension and authenticity to the piece.

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With the laugh out loud northern humour resonating amongst the audience, a snooker based comedy sounds like it corners a somewhat niche market, but there is no genuine need for a love of the game to enjoy the show at all.

Set in and around Sheffield, and with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek in its nod to the people of South Yorkshire, The Nap does for snooker what The Full Monty did for male strippers.

The Nap is playing at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until 2nd April 2106.  0114 249 6000.