Godfrey Johnson is one of South Africa’s leading performing artists, with a singular reputation as a Cabaret Artist, Composer, Writer and Director. The Fleur Du Cap award-winner’s unique voice continues to break new ground in multiple arenas.
2016 has seen the successful first run of Johnson’s collaboration with Pieter-Dirk Uys on the musical ‘Die Van Aardes van Grootoor’. In addition to composing the score, Johnson was both Musical and Theatrical Director, and led the ensemble.
“He sings, he writes, he plays, he composes, he directs, he performs, he listens, he laughs and he knows! Godfrey and I have been working together for over twenty years and every experience is a joy and an adventure onto new horizons. Through his patience and talent, Bambi Kellermann became a voice to be reckoned with in the wilderness of cabaret. I can’t wait for our next venture!”
With six-time Fleur du Cap nominations and numerous awards under his belt, Johnson broke new ground with the extraordinary one-man play, entitled ‘Vaslav’, which was co-written and directed by equally unparalleled Lara Bye. A true theatrical triumph, ‘Valsav’ demands a formidable combination of skills and artistic depth, as reflected in the Fleur Du Cap’s 2015 nominations, in which Johnson became the first South African artist to be included in the following three categories:
– Best Actor in a Musical
– Best Performer in a One-Person Show
– Best Composer.
An exceptional diversity of categories for one show, much less one individual, it stands as a formal recognises his audiences’ time-honoured experience: Johnson’s simple solo performances are of a power and magnitude equal to the most elaborate of productions.
“Solo performances are no easy thing, but when you have all the elements coalescing as they do here, it can be sublime…when you can tell a story with such passion, artistry, visual mastery, while illuminating something about life, it’s something special.”
Dianne de Beer, The Star
Johnson recently brought ‘Valsav’ Johannesburg’s audiences, and Bye and Johnson are currently developing opportunities for European audiences, following interest from producers as far afield as Sweden and the Netherlands.
Throughout his career, Johnson has delivered high-impact performances, and has a special place in audience’s hearts and minds for his intimate and life-affirming delivery of Jaques Brel’s work. At once dark and light, Johnson proves himself as much a dramatist as he is comedian. This ability also sees him bringing the songs and social-vignette’s of Noel Coward’s life and times into the 21st century, bringing both him and Coward to new audiences, and his Brel and Coward is known from Montreal to London, and from Amsterdam to Boksburg.
Unzipping a very modern Cabaret
His current comedy-offering, ‘Unzipped’, sees Johnson using music, satire and comedic nuances to shed new light on the experiences of today’s political and social absurdities. Interspersing the songs of David Bowie, Diana Ross, Joe Jackson – and a haunting Leonard Cohen – with moments of high comedy, Unzipped introduces Johnson as a fine satiris. He has developed three highly idiosyncratic characters who shed light on the hilarity and pathos of modern life – especially modern South African life.
Hailed by critics since its debut in April earlier this year, it is a highly distinct landmark on the local theatre scene.
“…a masterpiece of satirical fun…(this is) caricature worthy of Juvenal,” Berverley Brommert, the Cape Argus.
“…it felt like I truly heard these songs for the first time when they came from Johnson’s mouth and hands. Perhaps because he sneaks in his own satirical lyrics here and there, but he also owns every moment.” Marilou Snyders, What’s On Cape Town.
Teaching, Hosting, Directing and Coaching
Godfrey Johnson is a busy man, and between performing, writing and rehearsing, he brings his passion for life and people to bear on uplifting workplaces, students and theatre graduates. Godfrey – and his company of characters and songs (over 300 in his repertoire) – has entertained and inspired companies such as Nedbank, Pep Stores, Old Mutual, and even the South African Government. He worked with some of South Africa’s true theatrical giants, and is much in demand as composer, collaborator and mentor.
“It was one of the most beautiful processes to witness. His kindness, generosity of spirit and beautiful sense of humour feed into every aspect of his work, and make working with him an absolute pleasure…I would work with him over and over again!” – Bianca Flanders