Clare in the Community
Series One

Written by: Harry Venning and David Ramsden
Starring: Sally Phillips, Alex Lowe, and Gemma Craven
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67791 2
Available 06 August 2007

Clare Barker has entered a caring profession so that she can sort out other peoples problems rather than deal with her own. A control freak, Clare likes nothing better than interfering in other people's lives on both a professional and personal basis. Secretly regarding herself as a cross between Mother Theresa and Wonder Woman, Clare tends towards self-importance and considers most other professions as trivial. She is in her early thirties, white, middle class and heterosexual, all of which are occasional causes of discomfort to her. We join Clare in her continued struggle to control both her professional and private life...

Clare in the Community is a Radio 4 comedy series that is based on the long running cartoon strip in the Guardian's Society section. This radio series won a Sony Bronze award in the comedy section in 2005. Clare (Sally Phillips) is a social worker enduring the endless trials of bombed out estates and Byzantine bureaucracy (in a job that would be a lot easier but for the tiresome necessity of having to deal with members of the public). This release contains all six episodes from the show's first series.

The series kicks off with Babysitter. This episode sees Clare agreeing to baby-sit her colleagues 16-year-old son - who has always been a bit of a handful. Clare's high and mighty attitude results in her accidentally agreeing to baby-sit in order to save face.

Adoption: Clare and Brian have new neighbours. Clare goes through the unpacked boxes outside their house to get an idea of what sort of people they are. There's a subtle gag here where Claire is pleased to find that the neighbour's crockery is wrapped in pages of the Guardian. She asks her husband: "Have you ever read this strip cartoon? I've never really understood it". She's obviously referring to the Clare in the Community strip in the Guardian that this series is based on. However, Clare and Brian are soon having sleepless nights because their neighbours insist on having sex all night long.

Glad to be Ray: Clare's colleague Ray is a little insular. He's sociable, chatty and generally friendly, but no one knows anything about him. Clare starts to wonder what seedy secrets Ray hides and makes it her business to find out. What she discovers is far worse than even she could imagine. This episode also continues to hint at the fact that Megan and Brian have started having an affair.

Last Words: One of Clare's old clients dies. Clare hated her, because she was so difficult and rude, but wangles a day off work to go to the funeral. The plan is to go to the funeral and then spend the rest of the day at the cinema. But when Clare turns up at the church service she discovers that the old woman was very fond of her - to the point where all she ever did was tell her family how much she liked Clare. The end result is that Clare gets a bit of a God complex and instead of sneaking off to have a day of fun, stay for the wake. Meanwhile Simon, Brian's colleague, asks Megan out. Jealous, Brian convinces Simon that Megan is a stalker.

Combat Zone: Clare is taking driving lessons from Brian. On the way to her work's Christmas party Clare and Brian run out of petrol. Unfortunately they breakdown in a rough area (there's a funny nod to Hitchcock's The Birds, with youths appearing out of nowhere - sitting on a climbing frame in a playground). They run to a boarded up pub to see if they have a phone, but the locals aren't overly friendly.

Stage Fright: Clare, and her colleagues have to go to an anti-discrimination workshop - despite the fact that Clare thinks she knows it all already. Brian is in the middle of producing the school play - which is gradually morphing into tragedy based on his and Clare's relationship. As a surprise to Brian, Clare gets her work mates to go to the play - without realising what it's about. How will Clare react when she realises that Brian is not happy in their relationship?

Series One of Clare in the Community is a must own collection for anyone who has a sense of humour. Sally Phillips is perfect as Clare - I really can't imagine anyone else being able to deliver those cutting remarks so believably.

Darren Rea

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