Interview with The Nap playwright Richard Bean
The Broadway premiere of The Nap continues at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through to November 11, 2018.
Perhaps best known to Broadway audiences as the playwright of the 2012 hit Broadway production of One Man, Two Guvnors, which helped to launch the stateside career of a certain "Late Late Show" host by the name of James Corden, earning him his first Tony Award, Richard Bean has made a long-awaited return to the Great White Way this season, courtesy of the Manhattan Theatre Club. The Olivier Award nominee's new comedy The Nap began preview performances at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on September 5, officially opening on September 27, and the production continues its limited engagement through to November 11, 2018.
Read our glowing review.
The British, Yorkshire-born writer introduces us to the perhaps slightly foreign world of professional snooker - a British game similar to pool - but fills it with an ensemble cast of outlandish, over-the-top characters and a generous helping of twists and turns that delve into match-fixing, illegal betting and professional con artists who will hustle their way to the top by any means necessary.
We reached out to Mr. Bean (no, not that one) to get his thoughts on bringing The Nap to New York audiences...
After the success of One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway in 2012, did you feel more pressure to deliver with your second Broadway production, The Nap? Or does already having a Broadway hit on your résumé make the whole process easier?
No, there's a lot of pressure and this, unlike Guvnors, was a new production. Add to that that Americans don't understand or care about snooker, and then having to find a snooker player good enough to deliver every night, a transgender actor, and Americans doing Sheffield accents, then the stress levels were enough for me to invest in my own defibrillator.
As you were born and raised in Hull, how important was it for you to set the play in Yorkshire and how do you feel that influenced your characters?
Most of the characters are Yorkshire, though Tony the agent is written as a Londoner. I think most writers are most comfortable writing "home" characters as they have those voices in their heads and what gives drama/theatre zip is the use of vernacular, and one can't make up vernacular, it's best if you have a dictionary of it in your head.
Did you worry that some of the regional nuances might be lost on New York audiences?
The first line of the play is "Would you like a prawn sandwich?" and I got an email from [director] Dan Sullivan asking me what a prawn sandwich looks like, and could I send a photograph. Of course, in America you have shirmp sandwich and you dress it with a lot of healthy green and it ends up looking like a beach hut, not a sandwich. So that worried me, and there were two or three of those on every page, but the principle was that we would change the text to make it accessible to Amercans but every line, every word could still possiblly be heard in Sheffield. So replacing Waitrose supermarket with WallMart was out, it had to be Marks & Spencers.
The Nap features an hilarious ensemble of zany misfits. What were your specific influences for the various characters?
There was a boxing and snooker promoter, Frank Maloney who transitioned around the time I was first writing this play and became Kellie Maloney and carried on in that very macho industry and was seemingly accepted. A friend of mine also transitioned at the same time, so I had the transgender thing in my head, and wanted to have a character who, although they'd transitioned, everyone just accepted it. I was looking for the kind of Soprano character surprise of a gangster who goes to therapy. So the transgender gangster of Waxy Bush was born. Waxy Chuff in the English production, but you don't have chuffs in the States, well, you do but you don't know what they are. Another extreme character was based on Sharon Mathews - an English mother who had arranged for her own daughter to be kidnapped by her boyfriend and locked up under his bed, so that Sharon could milk the press for some exclusives money. The world of snooker demands such extreme characters, for example our greatest snooker player, Ronnie O'Sullivan is the son of a man who has done time in prison for murder, and whose family run a series of Adult Sex shops. It's about populating an extreme culture with extreme characters.
Obviously, the live snooker game is a pivotal point of the production and its outcome directly affects the ending of the play. Have there been any interesting mishaps either over in the UK or here on Broadway?
Of course, things go wrong. The worst is if the snooker professional in the cast misses an easy shot, which sometimes does happen, and then our actor is on the table and the two of them can chase the balls around for ten minutes. I've seen that a few times but the audience are enthralled because they know something's gone wrong and they're watching the USA snooker champion play Ben Schnetzer who is a great actor but not a snooker player. And, of course, in the final game, the world final, either of them can win. So it can be a different ending every night.
The Nap Tickets are available now for performances through to November 11, 2018.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)