Newark, Newark, review: this bawdy new comedy fills a Gavin & Stacey-shaped hole
While James Corden continues to appear in 50 per cent of the world’s entertainment output – “It’s that man’s voice again!” says my young daughter, watching the latest kids’ animation in which Corden stars as a rabbit/mouse/troll/sentient emoji – Mathew Horne is rarely spotted. After the early success of Gavin & Stacey, Corden and Horne burned through the goodwill in a terrible film (Lesbian Vampire Killers) and an even worse sketch show (Horne & Corden).
While Corden rebuilt his career to an insanely successful level, Horne all but disappeared. The Gavin & Stacey reunion bucked things up a bit, and now Horne is back with two offerings. One of them is Catherine Tate’s woeful The Nan Movie (“Rubbish” – The Daily Telegraph) and the other is Newark, Newark. It won’t catapult him back into the limelight, because it’s on UKTV’s Gold, but it’s a promisingly sharp comedy in the Gavin & Stacey mould.
It’s set in a working-class community in Newark, Notts, and stars Morgana Robinson as chip-shop worker Maxine. She’s 40, newly divorced from Terry (Horne), and now a single mother to Leslie (Jai Hollis), a melodramatic gay teenager who wants to live life with a flourish. The loving relationship between mother and son is based on writer Nathan Foad’s own upbringing.
Amazingly, this is Hollis’s first TV role – he’s a natural, possessed of great comic timing. He’s joined in the cast by Beverley Callard of Coronation Street fame, having a blast as Maxine’s ruthlessly unsympathetic mother. “He’s got a job, he’s got his own teeth, what else do you want?” she says, baffled as to why Maxine has divorced the hopeless Terry.
The jokes can be quite bawdy, so those of a nervous disposition should probably give it a miss, and it’s a comedy about a very specific milieu. A character says of her toddler daughter: “She’s all ‘terrible twos’ at the moment. She learnt how to shoplift last month so I’m having to keep her inside a lot.”
But there’s a real warmth to it. The only weak spot, I’m sorry to say, is Horne’s character, possessed of such a bad wig and sad-sack personality that the idea of Maxine being married to him defies all believability.