Upclose with Oniatta Effendi of The Gunpowder Trail

Claire Tham is famous for creating vivid characters. How did you get into the various roles?
I play three different roles—Lina and two interrogators. There is no costume change so the body plays a very important part in my getting into character. We have explored each character’s body shape, movement, and habits. The actor’s voice is integral to the discovery of these distinct roles as well.
In real life you’re a mother of three, yet Lina is a rather absent Mom. How did one inform the other?
My real-life role as a committed mother informs Lina of the deprivation of opportunity that she has. I am conscious not to play her as a mother who is judged as a lesser being just because she loves her job more than anything else in the world. She is a mother no less, but faced with a conflict that defines her as she is. My real life role as a daughter plays a part too and I have tapped on encounters with my own mother in my exploration of Lina’s role.
In the local theater scene, who inspires you the most?
Kuo Pao Kun. He was my mentor when I was in university majoring in drama and was a great influence in my involvement in theater. I have worked closely with Pao Kun on several productions and he made me relish the joy of working with multiracial actors from this region. He also instilled the value of staying true to the work we do as artists.
What would your dream role be?
I find this very hard to answer but I would like a substantive role in a Malay musical that plays in both Singapore and Malaysia.
The Gunpowder Trail runs through Sep 10 at the Esplanade Theater Studio.