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Family drama The Debrief is a masterclass in comic timing

Katherine Jakeways’ exploration of rocky relationships leaves listeners hoping for more

17 July, 2020 — By Lucy Popescu

Katherine Jakeways has been described as ‘the next Victoria Wood’

AFTER a family outing, Hannah (Rebecca Humphries) and Mark (Tom Basden) love a debrief, and in each episode of The Debrief, a terrific five-part series by Katherine Jakeways, we find them dissecting friends, relations and events with humour and a hefty dose of cynicism.

During each 14-minute episode, expertly directed by James Robinson, something happens to rock their relationship.

Hannah runs a successful business while Mark sells kitchen units for a living. In the first episode Mark has just inherited £20,000 from the sale of his dead mother’s house. On the drive home, after seeing his dad, Graham, the couple discuss how to spend the unexpected windfall. In the back seat, their two young children, Finn (Milo Robinson) and Poppy (Juno Robinson), stars in their own right, wheedle for biscuits, demand their favourite tune, and are either dying for a pee or throwing up.

It is no surprise that Jakeways has been described as “the next Victoria Wood”. The Debrief is a masterclass in comic timing, nuanced characterisation and witty dialogue.

While the pair bicker, we learn that Mark spends his time caring for the kids while Hannah resents being the main breadwinner.

As they sneer about others’ taste in clothes and furniture, Jakeways reveals their own failings – their parenting battles, hypocrisy, snobbery and petty jealousies. Gradually, through muttered asides, the cracks in their relationship are revealed.

Mark displays a talent for designing and building tree­houses and, initially encouraged by Hannah, starts to sell them. This venture is abruptly curtailed when a kid falls out of one and breaks her arm – fortunately her mum is Hannah’s best friend.

Episode 4 with Grandad Graham (Michael Bertenshaw) is a particular highlight. Laugh-out-loud observations about four-year-old Finn’s school production of The Lion King are interwoven with Graham’s career suggestions for Mark. An inadvertent slip about helping his son results in another argument between the couple.

Jakeways’ series culminates with Hannah’s 40th birthday party, ending on a note that leaves us hoping for more.

  • BBC Radio 4, July 20-4, Mon-Tue 10.45am; Wed 10.40am; Thu-Fri 10.45am.

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