I went to Tabula Rasa (the laundromat by day theatre by night) last night to watch my friend and colleague Godfrey Johnson’s new show The Shadow of Brel. I was a little apprehensive; being a bit Brelled out. He has become the height of fashion lately; a trend started by Clare Watling and Godfrey himself as accompanist. I also know Brel very well. My father introduced me to him when I was about 12, and I loved his lyrics and the theatricality of his songs. I was introduced to politics, love, seediness, friendship, and that special European sentimentality that Jacques Brel was all about. I have seen many Brel shows and even movies. I know the words to most of the popular Brel songs.
So I really lucked out last night and was delighted by The Shadow of Brel. This one, directed by Sanjin Muftic, is a real goodie. It couldn’t be simpler. Godfrey, in shirt and tie, sits straight backed at the piano and sings Brel to his own masterful accompaniment. He has chosen a very good mix of songs, including the most popular ones like Carousel, If You Go Away and If We Only Have Love, but introducing a few most obscure and interesting and unusual songs like Next (my favourite), The Lockman, and Fannette.
Godfey was naturally a bit nervous last night, which made him take extra care. Once he settles in and relaxes I think he will let rip and the show will be a complete scorcher. A friend I was sitting next to said afterwards that Godfrey was ‘without artifice’ and I thought that that was a lovely way to describe the obvious simplicity and sincerity of this show. His voice and range are perfectly suited to the material, and his interpretations are from the heart, with deep understanding.
The venue is lovely and lends itself perfectly to this kind of intimate little cabaret. I loved the washing baskets turned over into tables. Yawazzi Fish (Jon Keevy and Sanjin), a newish and very exciting theatre company in Cape Town, are responsible for the staging of this show and the creation of a theatre space in Tabula Rasa, which is, really, a laundromat. The ability to do this successfully is brilliant. This kind of thinking is what makes me love Cape Town, but these teeny ventures have got to be supported to survive. It’s so easy to get there. If you are going down Roeland street, turn left at the set of robots into Canterbury street. Go past Ohrm’sÂ on your left. Tabula Rasa is on the opposite corner. This show is on until 20 Feb, and it’s a great one to get you there.