The actor talks about her preparation to embody the role of Samantha in Checkpoint Theatre’s latest play “The Fourth Trimester”.

“It’s mind-blowing to realise how many mothers out there feel so lonely and stressed out over their infant’s sleeping times, breast milk versus formula, diaper changes, their bellies hanging out and vaginal tears. It is basically like going to war, and that’s why I wanted to be part of The Fourth Trimester.

The Fourth Trimester is a beautiful script written by Faith Ng, and I couldn’t put it down because it was authentic to the trials and tribulations of early motherhood, something not many people talk about or feel like they can talk about openly.

To have people watch this play when it goes live on stage – and to tell them that you are not alone in this lived experience – is very precious. Because it is giving people the space to be seen and heard, and to acknowledge that their experiences are valid.

From the perspective of my character Samantha, The Fourth Trimester unravels a mother’s journey after giving birth. It’s about family and the struggles of motherhood. And I think for Samantha, it’s also about learning how to love herself and her imperfections, and what it really means to be a mother, even while seemingly failing as one.

When I went through the script development workshops with Checkpoint Theatre in January, I knew I had to be disciplined with how I took care of myself. I knew I had to protect myself as a person in relation to my character, because she goes through a very emotionally gruelling journey.

But what I like about working with director Claire Wong, is that she is curious and interested in the inner workings of a character’s mind. She is never shallow about it, and takes the time to dig deeper into those curiosities.

In preparation to play Samantha, I actually went on TikTok. And you could type in #fourthtrimester or #firstweekafterbirth and everything comes out. It gave me such a detailed perspective on what it means to be a mother in the first week.

People have a vague idea of what the motherhood experience is like, but they don’t understand the reality of living with a body that is so traumatised by the event of giving birth, and what happens to your self-identity after this event because you are now also responsible for another human being’s life.

I wasn’t always a full-time theatre professional, but I’ve always loved theatre. After a year, I thought: ‘Yup, that’s it. Theatre, you’re it for me.’ And the moment I decided on a career in theatre, I never went back on my decision.

As a theatre-maker, I personally love creating theatre for children. It is meaningful and gives them the time and space to play, be curious and negotiate the world. But the performer side of me loves being on stage, while being aware of the kinds of stories that I choose to tell.

When the audience watches The Fourth Trimester, I hope they understand that at the end of the day, it’s not about embodying or being an  ‘ideal’. We shouldn’t be so dogged by the idea of perfection that we lose what it means to be in the present.

Happiness is about being in the moment, getting to actually feel your baby and have time with your family, rather than chasing that idea of perfection that never truly exists. It’s about being loved and loving other people. It’s about being kind and understanding that nothing is perfect, but hey, that’s what’s so beautiful about life.” – Isabella Chiam

Interview by: Cindy Abner