The Barren Author: A six-part audio comedy-drama
At a time where “fake news” has become the norm, it’s perhaps useful to remember the man who first played hard and fast with the truth: the infamous Baron Munchausen. First appearing in 1785 in Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia by Rudolf Erich Raspe, this aged explorer (also known as The Brigadier) won over readers everywhere with his ostentatious and over-the-top stories. From fighting 40-foot crocodiles to travelling to the moon, The Brigadier has supposedly done it all, and with style.
Now, 200 years or so later, the spirit of Munchausen is back and raring to go, in a new audio series from Spiteful Puppet. Utilising the vocal talents of legends Richard O’Brien (the genius behind The Rocky Horror Show) and Sophie Aldred (“Ace” from Doctor Who), The Barren Author is an updated look at this literary favourite, imbuing much needed satire, comedy and absurdism into Raspe’s legacy.
Inarguably, the standout of the series is Richard O’Brien’s charismatic turn as Munchausen. Jumping between sardonic wit, spirited impersonations and inspiring asides, this may be a career-best performance from the acclaimed actor, even considering O’Brien’s impressive portfolio. Moreover, it feels very much like a postmodern reimagining of the classic character – with anachronistic referrals to both crypto currencies and long-dissolved empires, this Brigadier doesn’t belong to any time and is refreshingly escapist (ironically, for an audio series that features on old “Companion,” this new take on the character feels like Munchausen via Doctor Who).
But, for all the fun of O’Brien’s eccentric musings, the real hook of the series is the narrative that exists beneath the surface: who is this “Smith” (Aldred) he’s speaking to? As the episodes tumble by and one progresses deeper into the complex psyche and extended lore of Munchausen, Smith becomes a black hole of curiosity. Who is she? Why is she here? What does she want? As breadcrumb clues are dropped here and there, it’s inevitable that the listener will get caught up in these pressing questions and dragged deeper into the sea of mystery.
However, the journey isn’t all smooth sailing. The discombobulating combination of the script’s slick pace, O’Brien’s colourful performance and the innate pomposity of Munchausen’s stories makes The Barren Author sometimes difficult to follow. Just when one thinks one has a handle on one of the Brigadier’s audacious anecdotes, he’s moved on to another tall tale. Nevertheless, this overwhelming style is simply part of the audio drama’s charm – let yourself be submerged in this whirlpool of adventure, and allow O’Brien’s unrivalled vocal talent to whisk you away to worlds unknown.
The Barren Author is available to purchase online from 31st October 2020. For further information visit Spiteful Puppet’s website here.