The charismatic Christian Bennett is no stranger to the big and small screen, playing all sorts of villains, but the Thespian brings a different kind of criminal character to life in his latest outing at the Baxter Theatre.
‘Orphans’ is Bennett’s first theatre production in over a decade.
‘Orphans’ tells the story of two brothers who have their lives disrupted when they abduct a mysterious wealthy businessman, Harold (played by Abduragman Adams).
The dark, yet comedic, story of the two grown orphans - the younger, sensitive, and reclusive Phillip (Stefan Erasmus) and the older Treat, a violent pickpocketer (Christian Bennett) – are confronted by a dramatic twist of fate, landing them into a whirlpool of emotions, revelations, and life-altering decisions.
Their world is disrupted by Harold as nature clashes with nurture and all three characters venture into unknown territory.
‘Orphans’ is set in a house in Gympie Street, Woodstock and the production resembles all the elements of life in one of the oldest suburbs in the Mother City.
Over the past decade, we grew accustomed to Bennett playing the typical gangster or rogue-like character on TV or movies. However, a terrific piece of theatre awaits the audience in a never-before-seen role of Treat.
Bennett delivers an award-winning emotionally challenged performance and sets the stage for an emotional rollercoaster with his fellow cast members.
The audience is in for a treat with Treat – a rogue with a good heart and not shy to show his emotions.
“Treat is different in that he has his dark side, but he loves his brother so much that he is prepared to do anything to protect him including not allowing him to go outside. Treat needs to be in control and be the father figure,” said Bennett.
When asked where he tapped into to deliver the tears and feelings night after night, the cheerful Bennett got visible goosebumps.
“Thanks to the director Christo Davids for stripping me of my TV acting habits and rebuilding me, because I haven’t done theatre in over 10 years, although it is my first love. Christo basically oiled the machine again,” said Bennett.
“I lost my dad in 2019 and shortly afterwards two very close friends died, so in a short time, I lost three people dear to me. When Treat gets into that closet on stage night after night, I can feel my father’s presence. I placed a small object as a reminder of him in that wardrobe on stage and when I get in there it is like I can feel my daddy and it brings all those emotions to the fore,” added Bennett.
Bennett also plays Emile “Mielo” February in the telenovela, ‘Arendsvlei’ - the heartless villain who would go to great extremes to get what he wants.
“Emile is dear to my heart, I love playing him, he got his soft side as well and also wanted to make ends meet to help his younger brother before he got involved with the character Wendy,” said Bennett.
“Hailing from Belhar, the heart of the ghetto I play these characters naturally. I know a Treat and I know an Emile from my days in extension 13”, he further explained.
He reckons his love for the performing arts started with the Apostolic Church choirs.
“I was always in a choir, at some point in my life I was in four different choirs. I grew up going to church with my family.
“I won’t quite say I grew up tough, tough is part of the Cape Flats, the difference is that I chose what I wanted from Belhar and what I didn’t want I tossed out and now I am using all those experiences in my craft and creating the characters I portray.”
Bennett attended Symphony Secondary School in Belhar and has fond memories of his former class teacher, Glynith Kruger.
“Miss Kruger taught me beautiful Afrikaans and I enjoyed being in her class. I still owe her 2 weeks of detention I never attended,” a comical Bennett reflected.
Bennett took a walk down memory lane and remembers veteran actor Shaun Arnolds who passed away in 2009 and was dubbed the TV gangster.
“Shaun and I had a close relationship, he trained me and the lesson he taught me was to play every gangster character differently simply because no role is the same,” said Bennett.
He adds that he won’t accept just any gangster role that doesn’t have substance.
“If I read a script and someone wants to cast a thug that is stereotyped using tik and shooting a gun with no great story to it, I may just turn it down!”
The Northlink College drama and music graduate is tight-lipped about his involvement in a slate of films which are specifically made for his long-time fans in mostly overlooked communities thus creating jobs for those communities.
“Watch this space, that is all I am saying,” Bennett uttered with a smug look on his face.
“I am part of ‘The Umbrella Men 2’ cast and starring in a Hollywood movie called ‘The Fix’ with Grace Van Dien in the lead - enough said!”
Did you know Bennett has quite a way with a make-up brush?
“One of my favourite subjects was actually make-up, I recently did my sister’s make-up for her wedding, and I do my own face when I do caricatures of Gabieba – my TikTok character”, said Bennett.
In his free time, Bennett enjoys making TikTok videos.
“Allow me to sum up the just of my TikTok’s: when you are done watching my content it should feel like you just enjoyed a Sunday lunch around a big table with all your family, that warm and hearty feeling of the food, the chats and laughter.
“That is the feeling I chase when I put up a TikTok. It is so unbelievable when a man comes up to me and tells me you remind me so much of my mom, I must be doing something right, I am not mocking,
“I am loving and missing that aunty or neighbourly vibes. It takes a lot for that to come from a man stopping a stranger in public and conveying that,” he laughed.
Bennett’s message to the youth on the Cape Flats is nothing short of inspirational.
“The only one standing in your way is you, no one else, the moment you create obstacles your dreams can get blown away.
“Believe in yourself, only when you do that can someone else believe in you and stay true to yourself and don’t forget your roots!
“Light is the absence of darkness… A wise man once told me: that whenever life knocks you down to your knees, you are in a better position to pray!”
‘Orphans’ run at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until October 28, at 8pm with Saturday matinees at 3pm.
Bookings can be made at Webtickets at www.webticket.co.za/baxtertheatre