The Adventures Of Whip Crackaway And Honcho The Indian Boy

Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve posted. The reason? Clive and I have been working hard on the Speakeasy. Here’s the first fruit of our labours.

As a bit of a departure from our usual fare, The Speakeasy is proud to present its first foray into radio drama. With help from friends and contributors, Rob and Clive have put together a tribute and/or parody to classic 1930s horse operas. Please to enjoy the pantomimic stylings of the Speakeasy Players in…


Ask nicely, and we’ll never do it again.


The Speakeasy Players:

Clive Ashenden As Whip Crackaway
Rob Wickings as Honcho The Indian Boy
Simon Aitken as Hector Villianous
Alice H. DeVenns as Kitty Carmichael
Rick Bowsing as Pa

with special appearances from Graham Williams as Timmy
and Chris Rogers as The Voice Of Caversham Cigarettes.

The narrator is Kyle Eddley, who appears with the kind permission of Keith Eyles.

The show was written and directed by Rob Wickings, with production and sound design from our friends at All Hallows Post in Reading–‘the finest sound available anywhere’.

Poster design by courtesy of Ashenden Arts.

Direct Download

Radio Serial poster


Let Me Take You By The Hand: X&HT Reviews Ob’owa

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way before I start. Last week’s Friday Play on Radio Four was directed and based on early childhood experiences by Christiana Ebohon, who’s an old college friend of mine. She let me know about it in her Christmas card to X&HTowers. It’s almost certain that if she hadn’t told me it was on, I wouldn’t have tuned in. I barely listen to radio any more, least of all drama.

That, it would appear, is my loss, because if Ob’owa is any indicator of quality, there’s a lot of good work simply flying under my radar.

Ob’owa tells the story of Francesca and her younger brother Joseph. We first meet them in Peckham, sometime in the 70’s. They’re good kids, smart, funny, obsessed with the Bay City Rollers. They live with their mum, a divorcee. Dad still has visitation rights, which he uses to kidnap the two kids, whisking them off to Nigeria to live with his family. Their grandfather, his three wives, and their many children.

Ob’owa works on many levels. It’s a story about belonging, home and family. But it’s also a fish-out-of-water tale. Francesca and Joseph struggle to cope in a world where if you want meat for dinner, you have to go out in the yard and kill something. The wives react in horror when Joseph tries to help in the kitchen (“women’s work!”). School is tough, and worst of all there’s no telly.

The story could be unrelentingly grim. There are scenes of spousal abuse, musings on racism on both sides of the fence (ob’owa means “white”, a term that is used to taunt the two English kids both in the playground and the family compound) and a teeth-gritting moment where Francesca bravely submits to ritual scarring. But Christiana and writer Moya O’Shea have a light touch with the material, and the funny and sweet moments are a nice balance to the drama. The 70’s references come thick and fast (I snorted particularly hard at the jab at the truly dreadful Love Thy Neighbour), and the play is both pacy and absorbing. It’s also very well acted, with the kids in particular, Rhiannon Baccus and Jayden Jean-Paul-Denis giving sterling performances. Aural texture, recorded partly on location in Nigeria gives the whole thing the weight and heft of reality.

Ob’owa is a sharp and fearless look at the serious subject of child abduction. It would be easy to slip into hysterical pontification or cheap drama when telling a tale like this. Christiana and Moya do neither, treading a precise line, seeing both the humour and the heartbreak in the situation into which Francesca and Joseph are dropped. It’s great storytelling, and a very worthwhile excuse to simply switch off the telly for a bit and be told a story.


Ob’owa is available on the BBC iPlayer until 10pm this Friday. Do yourself a favour and cock an ear at it here.