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Channel 4’s Pure will completely transform the way you view OCD

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Colin Crummy
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PURE - Channel 4

The new comedy drama, based on Rose Cartwright’s memoir, will satisfy fans of Girls and Fleabag 

Mental health issues are no laughing matter, but humour is the best kind of medicine in Pure, a comedy which depicts a young woman with a debilitating form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Like Girls and Fleabag before it, Pure tackles a young woman’s mental health issues with a healthy dose of one liners. So what can we expect from Channel 4’s new flagship comedy drama?

1. It’s a show about a very specific form of OCD

The new six-part Channel 4 series is about 24-year-old Marnie (Charly Clive), who is bombarded by intrusive thoughts of an extremely sexual nature. Usually these are completely outrageous; think the most X rated scenarios starring the likes of Marnie’s dentist, a bus load of OAPs, and even her mum. The show, bravely, puts all these thoughts on screen so we see exactly what Marnie is going through.

It is worth noting that experiencing unwanted sexual thoughts or images is one of the less spoken-about forms of OCD. These thoughts can be anything from fears that you are a paedophile to worrying that you’re actually a different sexuality than the one you identify as.

Some sufferers may even worry that they’ve done something terrible like sexually assault someone when they haven’t. All their intrusive thoughts are unwanted and they are at no risk of acting on them, however much they fear they might.

2. It’s based on Rose Cartwright’s real life experience

The show is inspired by Rose Cartwright’s own story, which she touched upon in a 2013 article describing how she lived with the disorder, which sufferers refer to as ‘Pure O’.

“I have pure O, or pure OCD, a little-known type of obsessive-compulsive disorder,” she explained in Guardian Weekend.

“People with pure O experience repetitive thoughts, doubts and mental images about things such as sex, blasphemy and murder. Needless to say, I don’t feel too ‘pure’ when I’ve woken every morning for a fortnight to the crystalline thought of assholes.”

Cartwright went on to successfully crowdfund and write a memoir, which she then pitched to C4. She also created Made of Millions, a grassroots platform for mental health sufferers. You can read about her journey here.

3. Pure is written by stand up and screenwriter Kirstie Swain

C4 picked up the rights to the book and handed writing duties over to Kirstie Swain, who has written for BBC Three’s college thriller Clique. She’s also a comedian, responsible for Pure’s brilliant one liners.

You can catch some in the trailer, which includes an explanation of the mental illness issue in terms of The Sixth Sense, here:

4. It’s a show about mental health in the widest possible sense

Swain wanted to use the series to illustrate the all encompassing nature of mental health issues. 

“A lot of people think that mental health is just about the relationship with yourself, but it colours how you relate to everyone,” Swain told the Guardian. “Mental health is your entire worldview.”

5. Pure is a journey of self-discovery

In the first episode of Pure, the X rated content in Marnie’s head gets so bad that she decided leaves home in Scotland for the anonymity of London. Here, Marnie makes out, makes friends and attends a sex addicts meeting as she tries to name and own the thoughts she thinks. 

6. It stars newcomer Charly Clive

Pure is English actress Charly Clive’s first ever television role. She was spotted after one of the producers for the show watched her comedy sketch, ‘Britney’ on Vimeo.

Clive was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. She and her friend Ellen Robertson then wrote a comedy about the experience, naming the tumour and play after the popstar because ‘if Britney can get through 2007, you can get through anything.’

Their show had sell out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and various London venues. 

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7. The cast includes a number of familiar young faces from British television.

Black Mirror’s Joe Cole plays a sex addict Marnie makes friends with at a meeting, while Kiran Sonia Sawar (Murdered by My Parents) is Shereen, a girl Marnie knew from school who agrees to put her up in her spare room (though this being London, it is actually a storage cupboard with a bed). The young cast is rounded out by Niamh Algar (The Bisexual) and Anthony Welsh (Fleabag), who play potential love interests with whom Marnie tries to work out her issues.

8. The director is Aneil Karia

Karia has worked on shows like Top Boy and Lovesick and is working on a feature film, Surge, starring Ben Whishaw.

9. Pure proves that laughter really is the best medicine

“It’s good because we can talk about a really heavy subject like mental illness but then laugh at it in places,’ writer Swain told the Radio Times. ‘The nature of some of the intrusive thoughts, such as fingering a horse, is quite funny, until it becomes pathological and you think about it all the time and it ruins your life. It’s a good way to move between the two tones, comedy and drama.”

10. You can watch the entire series from 30 January

The first episode of Pure airs on Channel 4 on the 30 January at 10pm. The full series will stream on All 4 after the first episode.

Image: Channel 4

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