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Interview with Youssef Kerkour from the cast of The Nap

Youssef Kerkour in rehearsals for The Nap. Credit Mark Douet
Youssef Kerkour in rehearsals for The Nap. Credit Mark Douet

The world première of The Nap, a new comedy thriller about snooker by Richard Bean, opens at Sheffield Crucible Theatre on 15th March, 2016. Directed by Richard Wilson the cast includes Mark Addy (Bobby), Chris Brailsford (Seth), Esther Coles (Stella), Dermot Crowley (Danny), Louise Gold (Waxy), Youssef Kerkour (Mohammad), Ralf Little (Tony) and Rochenda Sandall (Eleanor) and Jack O’Connell as Dylan. The production will also feature professional snooker player John Astley.

Youssef Kerkour recently took time out to answer a few questions about the production.

What attracted you to be a part of The Nap?
Initially I was keen to work with Richard Bean again, (whom I’d worked with once before on “The Big Fellah”) and whom I consider a friend. Then inevitably Richard Wilson charmed the socks off me at the audition and frankly that’s impossible to resist, so it wasn’t so much attraction in as much as it was desperation to work with him. Seeing the stellar cast after the fact made the prospect of being involved all the more thrilling.

Can you tell us about Mohammad and how he fits into the storyline?
Mo is what’s known as a ‘Sports Integrity Officer’ with the International Centre for Sports Security and is the “big brother” breathing down Dylan Spoke’s neck (played superbly by Jack O’Connell). He tries to be the catalyst for Dylan’s integrity and honesty during the Snooker Championship….with hilarious consequences.

Tell us about the auditions and rehearsals.
Well the audition was a delight. Very smooth and comfortable. The Richards and Robert Sterne were very welcoming and also a bit tired as I was the last one they saw that day. The ethnicity of Mohammed was still being decided upon and I basically stated my case for making him Moroccan….which is my heritage. When you’re half North-African like me, white people think you’re ethnic and the ethnic community think you’re white. So being allowed to play a Moroccan who went to public school in England basically allows me to live in both worlds and make everybody happy.

As for the rehearsals I have to confess I’ve never laughed out loud so much. The gang are some of the funniest people in the business and our writer just knows how to tell ‘em! Richard Wilson likes to rehearse sitting in a circle for the first two weeks. We sat and simply discussed the play while reading and re-reading the scenes and laughing our heads off. One element that was insisted upon was that we not ignore the snooker fans who’ll come to see the show. So there are some big and exciting ideas regarding that at the moment.

What is the storyline at the heart of The Nap?
On the surface, the story is about corruption in the snooker world. At its core though I think it’s a study of love and purity and the way it manifests itself through the talents of a genius snooker player from a broken family. It’s also a workout for the abdominals as the comedy is cranked up to eleven.

Have you played snooker and if so, what is your top score?
I’d have played it and insisted on using my nine-iron…. that’s how little I knew about it. However, our snooker professional John Astley has agreed to give me some lessons and coach the 147 break out of me! So watch out Ronnie.

The Nap is only on for a short run at The Crucible – what is next for you?
I’m in an ITV series called “Marcella” starring Anna Friel. It’s a new murder mystery created by Hans Rozenfeldt who brought us “The Bridge.” There’s an offer on the table to do another play in the spring. I’m in talks to having a book published and will hopefully be finished writing my second stage-play, ready to workshop it.

Why should everyone get along to see The Nap?
Simply put…it’s the funniest play I’ve heard in a long time. It’s very rare to rehearse a play over and over again and still burst out laughing at the same places every time. Jack O’Connell is every bit as incredible as you expect him to be. Ralf Little has spent a lifetime perfecting comedy and Mark Addy will make your sides ache with laughter with a look. It’s a fun, cheeky, hilarious night out. Why not watch Snooker with a gigantic grin on your face?

Youssef Kerkour returns to the Crucible in the role of Mohammad – he previously appeared in Plenty. His other theatre credits include Harvey (Birmingham Rep/UK Tour/Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Richard II, Life of Galileo, Boris Godunov, The Orphan of Zhao, Written on the Heart, Measure for Measure, The Heresy of Love (all RSC), As You Like It (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Big Fellah (Ireland & UK tour), Plenty (Crucible), Mother Courage (Royal National Theatre). For television his work includes Identity, The Path to 9/11; and for film, Hummingbird, Side by Side, 360, The Discipline and American Tale.

The Nap
11th March to 2nd April 2016
The Crucible Theatre
55 Norfolk St, Sheffield S1 1DA
https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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