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Quick chat with... Cyril Nri

TALENT: Nri in rehearsal for Mad About The Boy

IN HIS latest role, British actor Cyril Nri plays a single dad doing his best to navigate his son through his teenage years. Not much of a stretch for the father-of-two who knows all too well about the challenges of parenthood.

Starring in Nigerian playwright Gbolahan Obisesan’s new production Mad About A Boy, Nri’s character – known simply as ‘Dad’ – enforces “old school” discipline, as his teenage son continues to fight for his status, survival and identity, whilst being pulled between the influence of his family, his friends and his school.

Tell us about Mad About A Boy…
It’s about a young boy who, in reality, is shyer and more innocent than the bravado front he feels he is compelled to put on in front of his peers at school. It's about the disconnect between the generations and the miscommunication that takes place when the pressure to provide means that a parent spends all their time trying to bring home the bacon and neglects to remember that love and nurturing is also about being fully present in a child's development.

How do you describe your character?
‘Dad’ is a single dad who is very old school when it comes to discipline. He's a hard-working man who tries his best.

Being a father of two yourself, are you able to relate to your character?
Being a father who's spent the last 13 years as a ‘single dad’, I totally empathised with the dad's plight in this piece. I understand how easily you can lose track of the reason you go out to earn money to support your family, and how quickly the pressure of earning leaves little time for the very nurturing you're trying to achieve.
Nowadays, the stress of economic survival, particularly for the single parent, demands all of one's attention. In this play, the disconnect leads to a devastating result and the boy possibly being criminalised.

How does this character differ with others you have played?
I'm in my 31st year of acting and I've always striven to make each character I've played unique and based in truth. In my mind, my character is called Trevor, though in the script he’s called Dad.

How long did it take you to master the script?
This piece is on of those powerful pieces that has humour, tragedy and the poetry of deeply crafted language within each line. Learning the lines was one thing, mastering them is an ongoing process. Every performance gives new depths and rewards.

Mad About the Boy is at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at The Dairy Room, Underbelly, Bristo Square EH8 until August 29. For tickets, call 0844 545 8252 or email boxoffice@underbelly.co.uk

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