Why I make time to... Do am-dram

Amateur dramatics offers a break for a busy barrister who finds it difficult to stop


Life as a barrister is busy. There is always something else to be doing – extra reading that might assist with that case, or drafting that needs to be done, or a briefing note that you could write to market yourself. That’s all before taking into account other pressures of life. It’s hard to stop but stopping is important. If we don’t stop we will burn out, become more easily irritated and, most significantly, we will make mistakes.

I can’t stop. I am absolutely rubbish at it. But as they say – a change is as good as a rest! Throughout my life I have participated in a large number of extra-curricular activities. I’ve realised how anxious I get in unregulated situations; therefore, attending organised events is a comfort zone for me. Another reason is escapism. I think as a society we fail to teach children how to cope with stress and anxiety and I am grateful that I grew up in an active area that enabled me to find my own way and develop coping mechanisms that I can now adopt readily in my adult life.

Performing, be it acting, singing, or dancing, has always taken the majority of my spare time. I am part of two drama groups and one dance company, each offering something different. The Wheatsheaf Players in Coventry is my main drama group. We do mainly scripted plays and a pantomime every year. Cloud8 produce original work so much of what I do there involves new writers sharing their work for the first, or maybe second, time. We also do singing shows and perform songs from screen and stage. Street Cats Dance Company is a dance school based in Rugby which is run by two highly dedicated sisters. We perform once a year and I am in the adult class which has grown significantly and has a real range of experience.

What attracts me to performing? First of all, the ability to be someone else. Life is hard and sometimes things are happening in it that we simply can’t put to one side. Sometimes we have behaved in a way of which we are not proud. This applies to life in general and work specifically. If I’m focusing on behaving like a police officer or a 19th century lady, I’m not thinking about my client, or the injured party. I can put a pause on those thoughts and that is necessary for both my sanity and to enable me to be the best barrister I can be, as well as continue to function as a (pretty much) normal human.

"Being able to go into that arena, no matter what sort of day I’ve had, and know that I can be comfortable and happy with what I’m doing is priceless."

Secondly, and linked to the reason above, it keeps the mind active but in a different way to working. Exploring the elements involved in performing stretches the usual parameters of my day-to-day thinking and learning styles, and enables me to explore more of who I am.

It feels good to be competent at something. I am not a confident person. Meeting new people terrifies me. Failing scares me. I’m quite good at acting (less so the singing and dancing!). Being able to go into that arena, no matter what sort of day I’ve had, and know that I can be comfortable and happy with what I’m doing is priceless. It’s a safe place. It is also a safe place to fail, which leads me on to my final point…

… the people. You will struggle to find a more diverse group of people than those in an amateur dramatics group. People join for a huge range of reasons and from all walks of life. It is not just actors who are involved; there are the techies, the front of house crew, prompts, costume, props and the list goes on and on.

In my first amateur dramatics group, I was privileged to know a gentleman who was involved in the law. I became interested in being a lawyer when I was about 13 years old and I didn’t really know anyone who had been to university, let alone trained to be a lawyer. Being able to speak to this person was invaluable and I would never have had that opportunity without performing.

The best part though, without a doubt, is the lifelong friendships. I grew up in a big, close family and living away from them is hard, but my drama friends and my dance squad are my second family. We are an odd bunch, but I love them.

Rebecca Keeves is a barrister at Cornwall Street Barristers and has a broad practice in civil, crime and family law.

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Rebecca Keeves

Rebecca Keeves is a barrister at Cornwall Street Barristers and has a broad practice in civil, crime and family law.