The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin | Review of Noel Fielding's new Apple TV+ adventure © Big Talk/Apple TV+
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The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin

Review of Noel Fielding's new Apple TV+ adventure

Dick Turpin’s gone woke! He’s now a non-violent vegan who prefers knitting to armed robbery, shuns toxic masculinity, and embraces diversity in his gang of previously ruthless outlaws.

But Noel Fielding’s incarnation of the highwayman, accidentally falling into his life of crime, is immense fun. The comedian is clearly in his element in his dandyish pomp – let’s face it, he can only ever play Noel Fielding – and revelling in every moment of his first headlining comedy project after a decade of panel shows and Bake Off.

He and his team – which comprises just about every contemporary comic actor of note – have clearly been given the sort of free rein to do what they like with Apple’s sizeable budget, two things not normally associated with institutional broadcasters.

That’s evident in a playful, silly spirit, performed with exuberant hamminess, but also a little slapdashery around the edges, in which every gag is thrown into the mix, however corny. The writers – Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis Stuart Lane, Richard Naylor, Jon Brittain and Fielding himself – are wildly inconsistent in what style of joke they deploy, while playing equally fast and loose with their mythology.

Shot through with a Pythonish silliness, the joy of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin all rests on Fielding’s impish, whimsical charm to hold it all together, so it’s a good job he has that by the carriageload. While the vaguely similar BBC comedy The Witchfinder, with Tim Key and Daisy May Cooper, tended to underplay the comedy, here every gag is writ as large as possible.

There are shades of Blackadder – Lord Flashheart would be right at home here – and the more recent Our Flag Means Death. And it’s also family-friendly (well, it worked for Ghosts),  with the on-screen derring-do having the pacy, if frivolous, verve of a children’s high adventure – albeit with added dick jokes, marvellously deadpanned by Hugh Bonneville as the corrupt Thief-Taker General.

Anachronistic jokes abound, not least in Fielding bringing his progressive 21st century values to an environment that’s supposed to be brutal and bloodthirsty. That side of things is represented in episode two when Greg Davies guest stars as the leader of a rival gang, essentially reprising The Inbetweeners’ sadistic Mr Gilbert with a tricorn hat and a pistol.

Turpin’s Essex gang comprises the Friar Tuckish Moose (Marc Wootton), a gentle giant who loves the freedom of his new costume options, Honesty Courage (Duayne Boachie) who quickly becomes a starry-eyed devotee of the charismatic new leader, and Nell (Ellie White), the only one apparently committed to the highwayman lifestyle.

Mark Heap does what Mark Heap always does, steals every scene with his brilliantly peculiar cadence’s of Dick’s butcher dad, while the cast list also includes Dolly Wells as a true-crime writer chronicling the gang’s exploits, Asim Chaudhry as the easily-spooked  Craig the Warlock, as well as the likes of Tamsin Greig, Jessica Hynes,  Rich Fulcher. Joe Wilkinson, and Guz Khan.

It’s all rather jolly and cracks along at a gallop, with gags firing out much faster than any bullets. They may prove a bit too throwaway to emulate the cult success of something like The Boosh, but if you want to put your brain in neutral for half an hour or so and enjoy a daft romp, this hits the target.

• The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is streaming on Apple TV+.

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Review date: 1 Mar 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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