top of page

Benjamin Saprong-Broni- interview

Playing at Omnibus Theatre this month, DRUM delves into the work of BBC Broadcaster, Mike Eghan, as he meets fellow Ghanaian creative, James Barnor. Exploring identity and their success in the industry, this production creates an image of London in the 60s, using archival material, combined with music, dance and storytelling.

Benjamin Saprong-Broni is central to the piece by playing Mike Eghan, and has spoken a bit more about the production and preparing for the role.


Can you give us an overview of what DRUM is about?

DRUM is a reimagining of an interaction between Mike Eghan and James Barnor in the 1960s. At the time, James Barnor was a photographer for DRUM magazine and Mike Eghan was a disc jockey for the BBC. As two men from Ghana, they were, at the time, trailblazers - Africans in London at the height of their crafts.

How do you feel about becoming Mike Eghan, and how are you respectfully portraying him and preserving his legacy through your character?

I think he is amazing. His story is just as interesting and engaging as a story I might have heard about Muhammed Ali or an American legend. The reason I bring up American legends is because growing up, when I learned about prolific black figures, they were more often than not from America, and it’s interesting as a Ghanaian to find out about Mike Eghan and James Barnor.

In the process of portraying them I’ve done research, found documentaries about these men, and Mike Eghan has a book called The Emperor’s Story. Tapping into the material that’s out there is what I’m doing first and foremost, but also as a Ghanaian I have the privilege of being able to speak to my parents who were in Ghana at the time. They can speak to the time when GBC and radio were popular. That’s what I’m utilizing to portray the legend that Mike Eghan is and do my best to preserve his legacy through the character.

What research/preparation have you done to be ready for taking on the role, to understand your character, and create an atmosphere of 60s London?

Other than the sources above, I think it’s really interesting to look at how people spoke. The British/London accent in the 1960s is totally different to what it is today. There’s loads of little, nuanced research that can help build a character. Even just thinking about how Mike Eghan came from a place in Ghana called European Town, discussing going to school with white children in Ghana, living in a town surrounded by expats; how that changes how one would relate with Europe, as opposed to someone who has lived in Ghana and not seen a white person a day in their life. Those things, the finer details, give me the tools I need to try and tell the Mike Eghan story as truthfully as possible. I’m just thankful that there’s loads of information out there and that I have access to Ghanaians who were around at the time.

How is this different to any other part you've played before?

I don’t believe I’ve played a Ghanaian man that’s still living before, so that’s very different. When I first started acting, I would always say that my dream role was a biopic. I was always a big fan of Jamie Foxx and what he did with Ray. You have to work and train so hard to get to the point where you’re confident enough to portray someone who has lived and that people can access; who can compare how he was and how you’re acting. That’s a lot of pressure but it’s also a real honour as well, I think the weight of that is what makes this completely different.

How does this piece incorporate elements of truth with fiction and storytelling?

There’s a lot of things that Mike Eghan has said which are in this play. There’s no recording of the actual conversation that Mike Eghan and James Barnor had, but there’s lots of information about who these men were and interviews with these men. It’s a reimagining but the information in the play is taken from real words spoken by Mike Eghan.

What relevance does becoming Mike Eghan have, alongside Joshua Roberts-Mensah as James Barnor, in discussing themes of identity and success?

We’re still dealing in today’s world with issues of discrimination: racism. We’ve come a long way I’m sure from the 1960s, but seeing how these two Ghanaian men in London at the time were coming to terms with things like discrimination, I think is a really interesting new lens. And like I said before, the words in this play are taken from what these men really said for the most part, and to hear their perspective on politics and culture really does paint a picture of the journey that the Ghanaian immigrant and the Ghanian family has gone on since the independence of Ghana.

It was really interesting to speak to my dad- a conversation I never thought I’d have with my dad- about what I’m studying and what he's able to recall. Just in me growing closer to my dad through conversations about the subject matters in this play I think is a success in itself. Everyone’s trying to create a world which is more peaceful and more inclusive; I think telling stories like these where it’s not the typical African/Black story through the typical lens is a step in an exciting direction.

Joshua lived in Ghana for 9 years so the perspective that he has, the dynamic we have and our experience of growing up in London and growing up in Ghana - it’s a melting pot of really powerful ideas and it’s just amazing. It’s something that resonates with who I have grown up as my actual culture, and so it’s a real honour.

If you had 30 seconds to broadcast a message to the world via radio, what would you say and why?

I would say...ah that’s tough. Here’s what I would definitely say, let me tap into my quote bag: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. You’re alive for a limited amount of time. Observe balance in everything: light, dark, up, down. Don’t be too hard on yourself. And in the words of Mr. Mike Eghan: ‘Beeeeee good!’”.


Many thanks to Benjamin for his answers and insight into working on DRUM- within you all the best for the run!

Get tickets here:

Additional thanks to Alice James for coordinating this interview.

{Some grammar is amended for clarity}


bottom of page