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MR JOHNSON PRESENTS
CAST: Godfrey Johnson
VENUE: Kalk Bay Theatre
UNTIL: October 26
MUSICIAN, cabaret artist, director, actor, composer… there is one significant omission from this list in the programme of Godfrey Johnson’s manifold activities as an entertainer: comedian.
His quirky brand of humour is omnipresent in his latest show, as with only a piano for company he effortlessly holds both centre-stage and audience attention.
The cosiness of the venue is a strong contributory factor to the evening’s success; Johnson shares freely of his art and personal experience, giving the audience the illusion of being his collective confidant.
Material is so diverse it redefines the term “eclectic”. The rich farrago of musical fare is advertised on a blackboard beside the piano, and the artist adheres conscientiously to his agenda, which includes offerings ranging from Leonard Cohen to Danny Boy, interlaced with new compositions by Johnson himself, mostly zany.
Among the latter is a satirical portrait of Modern Man as well as a piece tersely titled Deep (both gravid with self-mockery), and – best of all – a collage of popular melodies played at ferocious tempo, interrupted at regular intervals by the assertion, “I’m not gonna sing that”, which explains the title Not Gonna Sing.
In a cheeky scarlet shirt and red-soled shoes, Johnson seems at times to have minimal interest in his instrument and in the way he plays it; his ever-mobile face catches mercurial moods, his legs, like his hands, have a life of their own over which he has apparently relinquished control.
Their calculated waywardness enhances the clownish performance style chosen by their owner for this off-beat cabaret, adding visual fun to polished musical execution.
After singing his way through songs about teeth, dogs and other topics of improbable lyric potential, Johnson turns the board around and we have “audience choice”.
The problem is that of the songs listed (no new material here) there is not one members of the audience are willing to reject, so he ends up singing almost all of them in an extended encore.
From the intense poignancy of Brel’s If You Go Away to the zesty harshness of Mac the Knife, Johnson’s stamina proves equal to the challenge after a full evening’s rendition of the advertised programme, like the professional trouper that he is. A truly generous presentation.