I'm sat on the front row at the Sheffield Crucible watching Jack O'Connell play snooker. Is this actually happening? I've been a huge Jack O'Connell fan since seeing him in indie films Starred Up* and 71 and have really wanted to see him on stage. So there is that.
Then there is the snooker. Long before theatre (yes there was a time before) the Crucible, in my mind, was the home of the snooker world championships. We were a snooker family, gathering around the TV to watch games and all had our favourite players. It was the time of Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, Jimmy White and Stephen Henry (my favourite) and I dreamed of watching a game at the Crucible.
These past and present passions have been brought together thanks to Richard Wilson and Richard Bean. Richard Wilson, who is associate director at the Crucible always wanted to do a play about snooker there and Richard Bean agreed to write one. And so, voilá, I'm sitting watching Jack O'Connell play snooker.
He plays Dylan Stokes a young, up-coming player from a rough background who credits snooker with saving his life. His dad (Mark Addy) is an ex con and his mum (Esther Coles) is an alcoholic petty criminal. His career to date has been funded by Waxy Chuff (Louise Gold) a transgender crime boss who happens to be a former lover of his mum's. As his career starts to take off they all want a bit of him and the guardians of the game want a urine sample and to know if he's been asked to throw a game.
Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors had me aching with laughter and The Nap too is stuffed with belly laughs but while One Man was a farce here it is more one liners and there is a thriller element too and not just from the pressure of playing the games. Making Dylan a vegetarian means obvious jokes but where the play really comes into its own is in the Malapropisms and mixing up of common phrases: "He's a child effigy" and "There's no smoke without salmon" are two of my favourites. Richard Bean was a stand up comic and at times the script is almost like a string of quick fire jokes.
There a couple of crunch games - a professional player steps in as Dylan's opponent culminating in a grand finale frame where it comes down to the who can pot the black. It is a shot that is more of competition than the theatrical setting would suggest (a good excuse to see the play more than once).
Aside from one dream sequence* which didn't feel wholly necessary The Nap is pretty much a perfect two and a half hours of entertainment, it is really funny, it is at times tense and it also has a little heart. Jack O'Connell lived up to expectation not least just about managing to keep a straight face throughout. I really hope he doesn't leave it too long before treading the boards again.
The Nap has extended its runs and you can catch it at the Crucible until April 2.
*I'm forgiving the dream sequence because it meant we did get to see Jack O'Connell in black boxers.
* Starred Up in on Film Four on Thursday