British series ‘Pure’ is clever, witty and oddly innocent

Picture: Supplied

Pure hopes to further the conversation about mental illness.

Marnie is not okay. She’s had X-rated thoughts for the last 3 672 days and doesn’t know why, or what they mean. “It’s like The Sixth Sense,” she says, “but [in Pure] I don’t see dead people, I see naked ones.” When she jumps on a coach to London, she doesn’t know a soul, not even herself, but hopes to find a name for what’s wrong with her self-sabotaging brain and build a new life in the city.

First on Showmax, the six-part British comedy drama Pure has an 85% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “An essential dark comedy about mental health, Pure is a breakout smash,” says New Musical Express. The Times (UK) calls it “clever, witty and, oddly, given the content, sometimes rather innocent and charming”, while The Guardian says it’s “brave, bold and barely short of a miracle”.

Through the eyes of its candid central character, the series examines a mental illness known as Pure O, which is characterised by repetitive intrusive thoughts – hers being graphically sexual in nature. While the series is often funny, you very quickly get how it is not fun for the person whose brain is being colonised by unwelcome visions of naked strangers, colleagues and even family members.

The show is based on the memoir of the same name by Rose Cartwright, who explains: “Pure O [the condition] refers to the purely obsessional kind of OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder], where you’re not acting out physical compulsions, but you’re performing compulsions in your brain, like reassurances, rumination, making mental checklists. So, it’s OCD like any other OCD, but it’s much more hidden.” Translating her own experiences into a story has been liberating, the author says.

“When I realised that I was in possession of a story that had never been told before, it was irresistible. I just had to write it. “I knew that this was something that was being experienced by hundreds of thousands of people in secret and I just wanted to blow the roof off it.”

And blow the roof off they have. As the Daily Telegraph says of Pure: “In 30 min, it removes as much stigma as it does clothing.” Pure stars breakout newcomer Charly Clive as Marnie; British Academy Film Awards (Bafta) nominee Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror) as Charlie; Anthony Welsh (Fleabag, The Girl With All the Gifts) as Joe and Niamh Algar (MotherFatherSon, as well as the new Ridley Scott sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves, which was shot in Cape Town) as Amber.

Clive, Algar and Cole have all been named Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow, following in the footsteps of the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Blunt and Emilia Clarke. Algar and writer Kirstie Swain were also both named Bafta Breakthrough Brits in 2019. Pure hopes to further the conversation about mental illness.

“Most people, if you say OCD to them, will think of people washing their hands a lot, or counting, or not stepping on cracks on the pavement,” said Clive. “I think the show will really shed light on that and make discussions a lot more varied about it.

“Also, hopefully, it will help anyone with Pure O to realise that other people have it and struggle with it and live very normal lives with it. “Marnie’s great fear is that she’s in some way a deviant or a pervert, so it’s really important to be able to shed light on this sort of thing.”

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