The actor opens up about fatherhood and talks about his character, Daniel, in Checkpoint Theatre’s new play “The Fourth Trimester”.

“This year is my 15th year working as an actor in Singapore. For me, whether I am acting on stage or in the process of creating something for theatre, I feel comfortable and alive because I have a genuine care for what I’m doing.

Before I went into acting, I was a public servant for a year and a half. Working in that environment felt like my soul was being eaten away. I didn’t dread going to work, but I wasn’t looking forward to it either. There was always a part of me that went, ‘Ugh!’ 

But I was dabbling in a bit of acting on the side, and  I found myself wanting to be at rehearsals more than at the job which actually paid.

When I decided to resign and take the plunge to focus solely on acting, it was one of the most important moments in my career – if I hadn’t, who knows if I’d even be working in theatre today?

Although it has been a difficult journey, I don’t regret quitting my day job. It may sound cliché, but theatre feeds my soul. And because of my work experiences, I am more inclined to work on projects that deal with the local context of the everyday Singaporean, which is what Checkpoint Theatre does.

I’ve watched and read some of Faith Ng’s plays for Checkpoint Theatre. Her work as a playwright is very well-nuanced. She has a way of writing that really makes you feel for the characters, and they are nothing if not Singaporean.

Getting to sink my teeth into a very authentic play was what convinced me to say yes to performing in The Fourth Trimester. As the title suggests, Faith’s new play looks at what happens when this whole new responsibility of parenthood is thrust upon first-time parents.

As a father to twins, I can relate to suddenly having this new life and lives that you have to be responsible for. And interestingly, the issues that my character, Daniel, faces together with his wife, Lisa, are so similar to the things that I’ve experienced with my family.

Daniel is a property agent. He is your regular Joe who studied hard, got a good job, got married, had kids, and is doing his best to provide for his family. He’s also someone who speaks his mind, even when it’s best to keep quiet so that no one gets offended.

There are many cultural norms and societal conventions entrenched within him. He believes that the husband is the one who should go to work, while the wife stays home to care for the children. He really subscribes to these traditional roles.

I’m personally very different from Daniel, but as with all the characters I play, I seek to understand rather than to judge them. I believe that the things he says and the decisions he makes don’t come from a place of malice, but are perhaps a result of his upbringing and circumstance.

Our director Claire Wong takes the time in rehearsals to discuss the characters at great lengths, which has been very helpful in getting into the mind of Daniel. And as an actor, I approach Daniel in a way that will hopefully move the audience to laugh or empathise with him.

Through Daniel and Lisa, The Fourth Trimester acknowledges the need for married couples to attend to the relationship between them.

I think it’s important to tell this story because often, once children come into the picture, especially in a city as stressful as Singapore, everything becomes about them and whether you, as parents, have enough to provide for them.

If we neglect that relationship, then problems may arise and eat into how we feel about parenthood.

I hope the audience will see how important it is to support the people around you: not just the parents, but our fellow human beings. Everybody is going through a very real struggle, which you may not understand or have gone through before.

But that does not make their struggle any less real. We should try to provide a safe space for the people around us, and be there for them.”

Interview by: Cindy Abner