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Sunday, July 14, 2013


In a performance without pretence and with complete sincerity, Godfrey Johnson allows Brel’s music to do the talking. (Review by Keith Millar)

Belgian born singer/songwriter Jacques Brel wrote profound and aching songs of love, death, romance and longing, almost always with a sense of cynicism. His music influenced many artists as diverse as David Bowie, Lenard Cohen and Westlife.

Always angst-ridden, tormented and intense in performance, he lived every nuance of the poetry of his lyrics, and delivered his songs with great depth of feeling.

It is the work of this remarkable man that Godfrey Johnson brought to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year in a one-man revue entitled The Shadow of Brel.

Altogether, he was involved in three productions at the Festival this year which included Flirting With Coward and Minnie and Johnson.

Johnson is a consummate performer. He has written and performed over 20 musical revue shows during a career which has seen him appear in all the major centres in the country. He is a very accomplished pianist and has a strong singing voice. His acting skills allow him to bring to life legends such as Noel Coward, and of course Jacques Brel.

Alone on stage and sitting in front of a Bösendorfer Grand Piano, Johnson is able to evoke the spirit of Brel and deliver a performance of considerable emotional depth and intensity. In a performance without pretence and with complete sincerity he allows the music to do the talking and delivers song after song of Brel’s extraordinary music. All of the best loved Brel compositions are there, including Amsterdam, Matilda, Next, If We Only Had Love, Madeleine, If You Go Away, Carousel and Marieke.

The Shadow Of Brel, which is directed by Sanjin Muftic offers inspired music performed by a very talented and skilled artist.

I defy anyone who sees this show not to have goose bumps and be deeply moved. – Keith Millar