Sophie Aldred talks ‘The Barren Author’

Doctor Who’s Ace on a new audio series with Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien!

“Stories are in our DNA. Before people could read and write, we all sat around fires and told stories. Look at the Norse myths. Look at the Ancient Egyptians and the Greeks and Romans. That’s how we make sense of the world. So, why not make nonsense of the world with this?” – Sophie Aldred.

We Are Cult‘s Eoghan Lyng speaks with Sophie Aldred – aka Doctor Who companion ‘Ace’ – who joins Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O’Brien in Spiteful Puppet’s The Barren Author, written by Paul Birch, produced and directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones.

What was it that drew you to the project?

What drew me to the project was a chance to do something different-something funny. I love comedy.  I’m not your obvious choice for comedy, but I do love it, and although I play pretty much the straight man here…straight person…and obviously, The Baron is really the whole thing – the whole point of this piece – I quite like being a foil. It’s really nice to come in with that, so.. Yeah, I was .. it’s the script as well: the writing, the idea of it is great. I love it. So, all those things.

Does recording audio differ from stage, television or film work?

Yeah, very much. They’re all very different animals, actually. Recording audio, for a start, I’m sitting right now in my airing cupboard at home, surrounded by my clean towels and sheets (chuckles). Which is quite nice, because they smell nice. Audio, you have to sum your whole performance up into your voice, which is of course different from stage, tv and film where you’re using your whole body. So, I like the sort of finesse of it: you’re having to produce the performance in a very small way. I like that. I mean, I can’t really describe it; it’s very different.  “A small way?” What does that mean? Another nice thing I like about it is you don’t have to learn the lines, you can  read it! So, that’s rather nice.

Do you think younger listeners will be drawn to this material?

Well, you see, everyone loves a story. Stories are in our DNA. Before people could read and write, we all sat around fires and told stories. Look at the Norse myths. Look at the Ancient Egyptians and the Greeks and Romans. Stories are everywhere, people love stories, and I think that particularly young children love stories. That’s how we make sense of the world. So, why not make nonsense of the world with this [chuckles]?

How familiar were you with the Baron Munchausen legend , in the days before you recorded for this project?

Not totally familiar. Of course, I knew of him, but I mean.. That’s not necessary, is it? I love this idea of an adult… He’s a bit, like sort of, a child. You know, that’s it. People who tell tall tales: People who live in this world of the imagination. Tremendously attractive, because, why not? Why not? We’ve got a world where it’s not particularly working very well -the world that we have – so why not have this incredible world of imagination? This is the world of children, isn’t it?

This is the world where children have this brilliant imagination where they say, “I want to be this”; “I want to be a fireman”; “I want to be a pilot”. They don’t say, “I want to be a bank manager.” “I want to wake up in the morning and think, ‘Ugh no, not another day.’” And this is what you get with Baron Munchausen, this kind of ability to see the world in his own peculiar, imaginative, fantastical way. Because, hey: guess what? It’s a great place to be.

Sophie Aldred in the Big Finish car park.(Big Finish on Twitter, Feb 10, 2020).

Are you working on anything We Are Cult readers should know about?

I’m doing a lot of audio projects in the airing cupboard. I continue to do Big Finish, Doctor Who. Still playing the role of Ace, which is just so fantastic, to be my grand old age, and still  playing a sort of ‘sixteen to twenty five year old’ young woman. I love doing those. It never ceases to amaze me how the scriptwriters  come up with new, fantastic ideas for the Seventh Doctor and Ace.

Last year, I wrote a novel, At Childhood’s End, which Penguin Random House very kindly asked me to write. So, I’m.. I was, before lockdown, doing a lot of promotion for that, and travelling around  and book signings and stuff, and still answering a lot of emails & queries about that. I’m doing… In fact tomorrow, as we speak, it will have gone by the time you read this… I’m doing lots of Doctor Who conventions online. In fact there’s one tomorrow, as I record this,  which is one in America! Which, of course, is brilliant because I can sit in my house and be with people from all over the world, who are missing their Doctor Who conventions, and their science fiction conventions.

I think that’s wonderful to be able to offer that to people without having to get on a plane.. Not that I don’t love travelling, but it’s better for the environment, let’s face it, not to get on planes. So, yes it’s wonderful to be able to communicate with fans over the internet, and to do these Zoom conventions. Different platforms, and that’s amazing.

That’s what I’m up to, and hopefully at some stage.. I have been back to a couple of studios, and I have been back to do a couple of short films as well, over the Lockdown period. All very socially distanced, and masked up and everything. So, that was fun. And hopefully-one day- we’ll all be able to get together again at a convention, or at least in person, because that’s the thing I’m really missing, I think.

That’s the thing that everybody’s missing is that ‘in person contact’ with each other. There are companies who have been doing small conventions, and it’s just so nice to see people in “3D”’.So, yes that’s what I’m up to and wishing everyone well during these strange times. Keep communicating, whether by phone or Zoom, or whatever, but let’s see what a difference we can make to other people.


❉ Written by Paul Birch, produced and directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, Spiteful Puppet’s ‘The Barren Author’ was released 31 October 2020. Price: £3.99 each episode or £19.95 for all six if bought together via www.spitefulpuppet.com. Sound Design by Joseph Fox. Soundtrack by Abigail Fox. Illustration and Graphic Design by Robert Hammond. 

  A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng is the author of ‘U2: Every Album, Every Song’ which is out now and available from Sonicbond Publishing, RRP £14.99 (ISBN 1789520789)Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage. 

Header: Illustration and Graphic Design by Robert Hammond.

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