Getting Under the Skin of Post Natal Depression

By Bras Basah Bugis on Jan 2017

Source: Facebook / Alessandra Fel 

Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent in deep cover.

Adele is an English singer-songwriter who has won countless Grammy awards.

Bryce Dallas Howard is a Hollywood A-list actress cast in blockbuster movies like Jurassic World.

What do these women have in common? If your answer is ‘fame’, ‘success’ or ‘career’, you’d be right. But they also shared an affliction which most women still don’t openly talk about - postnatal depression.

Every day, postnatal depression afflicts about one in eight women who become new mothers. The three famous names you see above are fellow sufferers of a silent epidemic that takes healthy new mothers and plunges them into unspeakable despair.

In more extreme cases, some women fantasize about committing suicide and taking their children with them.

This is the subject that Italian director Alessandra Fel tackles in her first local production UNDER MY SKIN - a theatre collaboration that premieres 11th January as part of the M1 Fringe Festival.

UNDER MY SKIN is the story of three characters: 65-year-old Emily, her son and a younger woman. Using music, movement and multimedia, it explores the struggles of maternity and its lasting effects on a woman’s identity. The work is both about Emily’s personal journey and a thematic exploration of postnatal depression, an illness mostly invisible for all of its complexities.

“Whether in Italy, Singapore or the UK, I think people don’t talk about it. There isn’t enough understanding of this illness,” Alessandra said.

UNDER MY SKIN is inspired by Alessandra’s own experience of the illness. Today, she is a theatre founder based in Singapore and the proud mother of a five-year-old daughter. A few years ago, it was quite a different tale.

“When my daughter was six months old, I was in London without my family while my husband travelled a lot for business. I was feeling very lonely and helpless.”

Salvation came when she returned to her family in Italy, who supported her as she founded Theatrelab, her theatre company. Returning to work and “taking concrete actions” helped her to recover from what she now understands to be postnatal depression.

“I was never diagnosed with it. Looking back at that period of my life after 5 years, I realised that what I went through was depression. Many women experience the same thing but they don’t get a diagnosis, choosing to power through it without help.”

It doesn’t have to be this way, Alessandra insisted. She believes that the public needs to be better educated about the illness, especially the soon-to-be mothers who are attending prenatal courses.

After securing a one-year residency in Centre 42’s Basement Workshop, she decided to turn her experience into a theatre project.

The Basement Workshop, which is a creative incubator that supports independent artists and their ‘text-based works’, provided a space for Alessandra’s team to begin development of UNDER MY SKIN.

Source: Facebook / Alessandra Fel

Working with local actors Catherine Sng, Patricia Toh and Rizman Putra, the experienced creative team set about translating depression into a raw physical performance. A challenge that turned out to be unexpectedly straightforward.

“The way people described depression is very visual and visceral. Their words inspired my images,” Alessandra explained.

For research, Alessandra interviewed veteran councillors from the Institute of Mental Health. The team read academic papers and solicited stories from women all over the world. They even studied comments and posts from internet forums about depression.

“We used a Facebook page so everyone involved can share their findings and contribute ideas for the project.”

After months of intense preparation and design at the Workshop, UNDER MY SKIN is finally ready. Come January, Alessandra and her team will be ready to take you on an emotional journey of motherhood, depression and the pain of coming to terms with your past.

11 - 12 January 2017, 8pm, Esplanade Theatre Studio, 60 min with no intermission

Recommended for ages 16 and above

For more information, please visit this website.