Is childbirth as traumatic as the scene in Alien when the creature bursts out of John Hurt’s stomach?
That’s one of the questions Kaitlin Tinker tackles in her darkly comic one-woman play Earthside, which draws parallels between Ellen Ripley’s daring escape from the Nostromo spaceship in Alien and the struggles of childbirth and looking after a nipple-hugging bub.
They say write about what you know, and Tinker experienced firsthand all the ‘joys’ of giving birth in 2018.
“Look, it wasn’t the mystical fantasy birth the books had promised,” she says.
“I had a labour that lasted for 29 hours and ended in an emergency c-section in a public hospital.
“But the whole odyssey made for a really excellent story. And its themes of isolation, survival, the mother wound and parasitic beings tied eerily well into the story of Ellen Ripley.
“Our lady of perseverance, and her quest to survive the Nostromo, became the idyllic vehicle to drive the Earthside narrative.”
Tinker is a bit of a jack of all trades – she majored as a visual artist in 2009, before going on to work as a showgirl in the cabaret industry for more than 12 years, appearing in national touring shows like Big Day Out and Parklife.
After relocating to Melbourne in 2009 she produced cabaret shows, before completing a bachelor of film in 2015 and going on to release her directorial debut The Man Who Caught A Mermaid, an award-winning short about an old fisherman obsessed with catching the mythical creature.
So it’s no surprise that Earthside, her debut play, has a cinematic quality with atmospheric visuals, lighting and sound.
“The designers have brought such an immersive spectacular into our little theatre – the visuals are stunning, the lights deeply prophetic, the sound is deep and otherworldly. It’s very exciting to get on stage and play in this world every night,” Tinker says.
“I wrote Earthside pretty cinematically, so much so that our lighting designer had to ask me quite frankly if I wanted to work with a designer or just hire a monkey to push buttons!”
A fan of sci-fi, especially dystopian thrillers, Tinker says science fiction speaks to our modern anxieties: “It’s fascinating that the original Alien still feels relevant, and captures so many of us, 43 years on.”
So having got through childbirth and the first few years of motherhood, does Tinker have any advice for mums trapped in the cold lonely orbit of sleepless nights, dirty nappies and sore nipples.
“I don’t think I’m in a position to be giving advice – every birth is different,” she says. “And if it doesn’t go the way you imagined, if you don’t bond with your baby, if you’re struggling with the aftermath – you aren’t alone.
“There are many of us: listening, telling stories, floating together. If you’re experiencing birth trauma or post-natal depression/anxiety – the Australasian Birth Trauma Association or PANDA have great starting point resources.”
The confessional play Earthside is at the Blue Room Theatre in Northbridge Perth until Saturday May 7. Tix at blueroom.org.au
And just remember – in space no one can hear your baby scream…
by STEPHEN POLLOCK