There’s a moment in Pure, Channel 4’s new comedy-drama, where 24-year-old Marnie (Charly Clive) is on a tube, when the scene in front of her turns into a writhing orgy. Marnie manages to calm her self by repeating her mantra “it’s not me, it’s my OCD”, and eventually her visions of the tube return to seeing the other passengers fully clothed.
Marnie has Pure O, a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which the individual has explicit intrusive thoughts. The scene is gritty, and uncomfortable, and shines a much-needed light on this lesser known – but real – form of OCD.
It also meant newcomer Charly had to stand fully clothed on a set surrounded by scores of naked extras.
“They were all milling about and talking to each other and getting to know each other before we did a take; and everyone was being really normal,” Charly tells us on the phone the day before Pure dropped in one lump on All 4, “And I was the weird one who doesn’t know where to look or how to walk suddenly…”
Pure, which has received rave reviews, is Charly’s first major telly role. She’s got a background in live comedy and theatre, often working with her writing partner and best pal for over a decade Ellen Robertson. When, in 2015, Charly discovered she had a brain tumour, Ellen moved in with her and the two started to write about the process. This led to their hit play Britney, which they’ve taken to the Edinburgh Fringe.
We caught up with Charly to talk about why she wanted to be involved in Pure and how comedy can get people talking.
What drew you to Pure as a project?
“I think Kirstie Swain [Pure’s writer] is a very good writer, particularly for comedy, which in Pure is, even if it is a drama as well. And I loved how nuanced the character was with Marnie. And I’d also never heard of Pure O, and so I thought her portrayal of it was really wonderful and really engaging.”
So often people say “oh I’m a bit OCD” when they mean they’re a bit clean. Did you learn a lot about OCD that surprised you?
“That something I used to do as well, that flippancy about the term OCD, which is really common. I didn’t know there were so many kinds, and I didn’t know that it was it’s own disorder separate from anxiety. And Pure O is really hard to wrap your head around because everyone experiences intrusive thoughts, and I feel like at any given day you could be like “is that me?” But the extremity of it is so different, and so indicative of Marnie’s Pure O which is thoughts of a sexual nature.”
The show really opens up the discussion about mental health, do you think comedy is a good way to get people talking?
“I think the really important thing with Pure that is that the mental health aspect is never the punchline of the joke, but it’s definitely part of the circumstance. I think there’s also something very British about making jokes about something very difficult. Mental health isn’t something we talk about very often, and certainly not enough. So if there are accessible ways to learn about it and to make it feel like something we can talk about more conversationally, then, yeah, I’m all for it.”
Looking to the future, would you like to be involved in a second season?
“Definitely! Either way I’m so proud to have been part of what we’ve got now with season one. And I’m hoping that people really like it. And if we do get a second series, there’s definitely a lot of material. I hope that the series could go either way. It doesn’t leave on a big cliff hanger necessarily, but there’s no shortage of stuff we could talk about.”
Pure is available now on All 4.