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Audio Comedy Review

Book Cover

Clare in the Community
Series Three


Written by: Harry Venning and David Ramsden
Starring: Sally Phillips, Alex Lowe, Andrew Wincott, Richard Lumsden and Gemma Craven
BBC Audio
RRP: £15.99
ISBN: 978 1 405 67793 6
Available 07 January 2008

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 third series.

The third series opens with Letter From America, which finds Clare and Brian forced to live at Brian's friend Simon's house after they sell their own home in order to be in the perfect position in the housing market. Sadly, it's not quite working the way they'd planned. Also, Clare's has started corresponding with an American inmate on death row. Although, for one party, their new pen pal is not quite what they were expecting.

Merry Christmas Mrs Lawrence: Clare is determined to survive Christmas Day with her family. Things start to get progressively worse as Clare's dad goes off on his usual rant and bores everyone about life in the '60s, and Clare's mother openly flirts with Brian. But when Clare goes to pick up her grandmother from the old folks home, and comes back with the wrong woman, things really start to fall apart.

Brenda's Birthday: Clare is coerced into helping Megan organize her one-year-old daughter's birthday party, but when Clare annoys the Punch & Judy man she ends up having to provide the entertainment herself.

We Need to Talk About Brian: Clare and Brian are about to move into a new home but when Clare finds something unexpected from Brian's past, whilst packing, she decides to ask the advice of her colleagues. Meanwhile Brian has no idea what Clare has discovered, but it's something he's been wanted to get out in the open for years.

The Redcap: Clare has a new student social worker with an army background, which is good as Clare doesn't have time to toughen up trainees. Titania, who prefers to be called "Titty", is a former redcap, with 15 years with the military police. There's also a leaving party to organise as Peggy Minter, who everyone dislikes, is moving on to a better job. Brian also has problems of his own as he's become chairman of the local men's group.

Clare's Last Stand: Clare and her colleagues are enjoying an easy day at a conference - until Clare's nemesis Peggy turns up in her new role and issues a challenge that Clare can't refuse. Meanwhile, Brian decides to fulfill his lifelong ambition to become an actor.

Series Three of Clare in the Community builds well on the characters and situations that were introduced in Series One and Two. Brian features a little more heavily in this series, and we get to see him out and about doing his own thing a little more. Megan also takes a bit of a back seat for most of these episodes, which is a shame. But then I suppose a lot of the reason why she was central to many of the earlier episodes was because she was a student trainee who was quite naive - with a lot of the comedy being born out of her and Clare's relationship. Now that she's been working there for some time, and is a young mother, it's only natural that the naive gags won't work quite the same, and so the writers have a character that they are not entirely sure what to do with.

This CD collection is well worth the money and is sure to bring a smile to the faces of most listeners. There are so many situations that the listener can identify with that, at times, it becomes frightening how true to life the characters are.


Darren Rea

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