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Charly Clive, star of Channel 4’s new OCD comedy: ‘I can relate to the feeling of not understanding your brain’


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Channel 4’s new comedy-drama series Pure is putting the spotlight on a mental health condition called Pure O, which has never before had the attention of mainstream television.

Image courtesy of Channel 4

We spoke to lead actress Charly Clive to discuss the importance of providing a platform for these lesser known conditions and opening up conversations about mental health.

Pure follows the journey of Marnie, a 24-year-old who suffers from the condition Pure O and moves to London to try and figure herself out, and along the way makes some friends who are going through their own interesting journeys of self discovery.

According to, Pure O stands for ‘purely obsessional’. It is a form of OCD that is largely comprised of intrusive thoughts, but has no external compulsions and therefore is highly unseen and difficult to diagnose.

“I had never heard of the condition before,” confesses Clive. “I’d heard of OCD, but my idea of it was very broad and stereotypical.”

Now, after doing her own research and reading the book that the series is based on, she is much more well-informed of the nuances of OCD. She hopes that the programme will help others to broaden their understanding of OCD, provide a platform for people to talk about mental health more widely and promote the notion that you are not your thoughts.

At the same time the show is a comedy and meant to be entertaining, and Clive is no stranger to finding the comedic value in times of darkness. She was initially scouted for this role through her Edinburgh fringe show, Britney, that she created with her best friend Ellen Robertson. The show was based upon Clive’s experience of having a brain tumour that she nicknamed Britney because ‘if Britney can get through 2007, you can get through anything’. This strapline says it all; she found a lighthearted and comedic way to communicate her experiences.

This makes her a great fit for Marnie, the main character of Pure. Clive says that she appreciates the complexity of the character, which she believes helps her to bring her to life. “I can relate to the feeling of not understanding your brain.” says Clive, referring to the brain tumour that she was diagnosed with back in 2016. “The idea of not being able to trust something that sits on of your neck and is the most important part of you is incredibly isolating.”

She does admit, however, that the most important thing for her was the authenticity of the performance. In her own words, she wanted her performance to “do justice to something that a lot of people really do go through. I didn’t want to just put a funny face on it.”  This seems particularly pertinent because the show is based on the real-life experiences of Rose Bretetcher, who Clive is now friends with. Clive’s initial audition reportedly moved Rose to tears as she saw something authentic in the performance that she could relate to.

It’s noteworthy that OCD, in particular, can be a comedic target in mainstream culture in a way that makes light of the seriousness of the condition. It’s good to hear that Clive will be avoiding these tropes and trying to reflect the complexities of living with this condition, without it being all doom and gloom; it’s a fairer representation.

Finally, we asked Clive about what advice she would give to young people who are trying to make it in the creative industry.  Her answer is clear: “Making your own work is really vital. If you can show yourself to be a valuable resource then people will want to work with you and they’ll want to you use, but you have to show that.”

Pure airs at 10pm on Wednesdays on Channel 4.

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