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Sunday, February 19, 2012


(Godfrey Johnson)

Johnson pays homage to the musical narrative geniuses of Brel and Coward. (Review by Caroline Smart)

What better way to cool down after a stressfully humid Durban day than to spend an evening in the efficiently air-conditioned Rhumbelow Theatre enjoying Godfrey Johnson pay homage to the musical narrative geniuses of Jacques Brel and Noel Coward?

In From Coward to Brel, The songs of Noel Coward and Jacques Brel, Johnson performs highlights from his Fleur du Cap nominated shows, The Shadow of Brel and Flirting with Coward, both directed by Sanjin Muftic.

Opening with I Went to a Marvellous Party, he sauntered among the tables casually interacting with the audience. This rendition was a little too casual for me and required more of the Coward bite. However, his Masochism Tango delighted me as did Nina and A Bar on the Piccola Marina.

The line-up requires a constant change of mood and style from Port of Amsterdam and Marieke to Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Mrs Worthington – some even infused with an amusing Afrikaans flavour. He brought an aching tenderness to Coward’s I’ll Follow My Secret Heart and Brel’s If You Go Away (based on his Ne me quitte pas)

It must have been a daunting process to make a selection for this programme - Coward alone wrote over 300 songs. When the songs of these two legendary singer/songwriters are presented in a scenario such as this, it’s an impressive reminder of the quality of their work. None of the mindless lyrics so often prevalent today, but songs with words and eloquence. This is demonstrated in Johnson’s choice of what he considers the most beautiful song from each: Coward’s If Love Were All and Brel’s Seasons in the Sun (English adaptation of Le Moribond)

Adding little quirky touches of humour to his performance, Johnson is a highly accomplished pianist and I was impressed by his capacity to play with his body turned to the audience. I’m a touch typist so I don’t have to look at the keyboard but a piano keyboard is a whole heap wider!

Rhumbelow Theatre has wisely invested in a very fine lighting system and control board, allowing a wide range of settings to enhance the simple image of one man sitting at a piano. This was particularly noticeable in Brel’s Carousel.

From Coward to Brel has performances on February 19 at 18h30 and on February 25 at 20h00.

Johnson also performs The Johnson Jukebox which can be seen on February 24 at 20h00 and February 26 at 18h30. This claims to be the only show in South Africa where the audience can choose the entire programme which means that every night there’s a different line-up.

The venue opens 90 minutes before show for picnic dinner. Tickets R100 (R150 season ticket for both shows). Take along food picnic baskets and braais will be available. There is limited secure parking and booking is essential. A cash bar is available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises). Rhumbelow Theatre is situated in Cunningham Avenue off Bartle Road.

Booking is through Computicket or contact Roland on 031 205 7602 (h) or 082 499 8636, email or visit – Caroline Smart