CAST: Emile Minnie and Godfrey Johnson

VENUE: Kalk Bay Theatre


Rating: ****



At this time of year, as pressures both social and work-related intensify in the relentless run-up to Christmas, a little time off for undemanding entertainment is indicated – and the current show at Kalk Bay Theatre is the ideal prescription for stress.

With a piano, a part-time clarinet and plenty of brio, cabaret luminaries Emile Minnie and Godfrey Johnson take it in turns to beguile their audience in this two-hander tersely titled Minnie and Johnson.

As is usually the case in successful collaborations, the contrasting personalities of the executants complement each other; technically, their well-matched proficiency generates consistent artistry.

Minnie is warm, voluble, and given to ingratiating self-mockery, while Johnson is poker-faced, offering an understated humour which counterbalances the cheery burbling of his more forthcoming partner.

What they have in equal measure is polished musicianship as well as a confident approach to the delicate art of reading an audience.

Another common denominator is the simple and obvious pleasure they take in performing their repertoire, a widely inclusive and seemingly random affair featuring the songs of such disparate personalities as Irving Berlin and Bonnie Tyler, with a dash of Edith Piaf. Minnie’s study of French has ensured a very creditable accent in delivery of the latter.

He is at his best singing original Afrikaans compositions as he gives the impression of confiding personal experience to his audience, with the flattering intimacy incidental to such an exercise. This is reinforced by bold and sustained eye contact with his listeners (even those seated behind him!).

Johnson is more reserved, but never aloof; he is well up to the mark when it comes to engaging his public, and his deft fingering of the keyboard is as deceptively relaxed as a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A highlight of the show is the ensemble of his piano and Minnie’s eloquent clarinet, reflecting the respective strengths and styles of the twosome.

Between them the pair generate tongue-in-cheek, escapist fun, symbolised by the extravagant Liberace-style coats which they don towards the end of this evening of Entertainment with a capital E.