Creating her first work for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival helped Italian director Alessandra Fel unpack her own experience of post- natal depression.
This frightening secret of motherhood is revealed in Under My Skin, which runs on Jan 11 and 12 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.
Actors Catherine Sng, Rizman Putra and Patricia Toh retrace the journey of a woman who now has a grown son.
Under My Skin is the first public project Fel, 41, will helm in Singapore, since she moved here in 2013.
The idea came after she landed a one-year residency at Centre 42 early this year. She has a five- year-old daughter who is her pride and joy. Yet she nearly fell apart after the birth. Her husband, who is with a headhunting firm, often had to travel, leaving her alone with the newborn in London.
Frustrated and unhappy, she took her six-month-old back to Italy where her family rallied around to help. This allowed Fel to set up her physical theatre centre, TheatreLab, and saved her sanity.
BOOK IT / UNDER MY SKIN
WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio
WHEN: Jan 11 and 12, 8pm
ADMISSION: $25 from Sistic
INFO: Rating to be advised
"Having children is beautiful but scary. You need so much love. You need to be selfless. You don't exist anymore," she says, recalling some relatives' dismay that she left her husband alone in another country. "Everybody supports the baby, but nobody is supporting you."
She has a master's in contemporary theatre from Brunel University in London and also trained at the well-known London International School of Performing Arts. In London, she worked with the English National Opera.
In Singapore, she is on the School of the Arts' faculty of theatre and has lectured part-time at Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
For Under My Skin, she spoke to two women who suffered post- natal depression, counsellors from the Institute of Mental Health and also read threads on forums where people spoke about their experiences.
It sparked memories of herself after her daughter was born.
She wants counselling to become part of the regimen for new mothers, as much as vitamins.
Depression in new mothers is taken too lightly, she says.
"People would say, 'Oh, it's post- natal depression.' But people would never say, 'Oh, it's cancer.'"