LAWLESS: Rebecca Poynton

Lawless is a series of articles which celebrate the stories, talents and passions of students at Melbourne Law School, beyond their experiences in law. This instalment showcases the wonderful Rebecca Poynton. So, Rebecca… who are you when you’re not a law student?

When I’m not a law student, I’m an actor and performer

If you asked me 18 months ago what I planned to do with my life, I would have said ‘change the entertainment industry’. While I still intend to follow that general idea, my approach has changed radically.

The first time I hopped on a stage was in September 2002 for my primary school production. Think black leotard, red tutu, covered in spots (ladybug, of course). Since then I’ve been involved in theatre and film around Melbourne and beyond. Just a few highlights include slapstick Shakespeare for orphans in Cambodia, co-writing a reimagined ‘Aladdin’ for the Solomon Islands, and belting “Damned For All Time” in front of 1,000 Finnish Lutherans in the heart of the arctic circle. These experiences all stemmed from a ‘humanitarian theatre’ group I performed with from 2012 – 2018. The idea was that we’d raise money from shows in Australia, then perform them for free overseas for communities that wouldn’t normally get to see live theatre. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and see the not-so-touristy parts of the world.

Although there have been some rough patches in my relationship with the stage, on the whole it’s been a healthy, long-term journey that I hope lasts my lifetime.

The rush of adrenaline before an opening night, the hours of rehearsing the same page of text over and over again, the applause from the audience, the friendships formed in the process, all of these are wonderful things. But for me, the real draw is showing people a perspective they’d never normally see.

For example, I’m currently contracted for a one-actor show called ‘Being Frank’. It’s a 40-minute piece about the first year of Frank’s transition, with appearances from his mother, best friends, and a mysterious Internet troll. The show was written with a trans advisory group who all sat down and talked about their own transition experiences with the writer and producer. After I deliver the performance, the hosting organisation/high school/workplace/university puts together a panel discussion, which always includes a representative from Transgender Victoria. During these panels I’ve seen Victorian government ministers ask about how they can incorporate neutral pronouns into normal business operations and Masters of Teaching students about better respecting their impressionable pupils.

Normally as a performer you get congratulated after a show, but with ‘Being Frank’, I’m always thanked instead. It’s incredibly humbling to be able to communicate this story and have people, who never really thought about gender before, suddenly understand a side of life they haven’t encountered in person. For me, there is no greater pleasure than seeing the look in someone’s eye when they consider a new possibility for the first time.

I want people to walk away from my projects having learned something about themselves, the people around them, and how they’ll live their lives. It’s easy to refute flawed logic, or disagree with an interpretation of fact, whereas art in all forms forces you to listen to hear, rather than listen to respond. This is a key quality I hope to carry with me as a lawyer, the ability to genuinely hear a problem and carefully execute solutions.

When I’m not a law student, I’m perusing floor plans

As far as I’m concerned, if you haven’t seen the floor plan of a house, you haven’t really seen the house.

There is something about floor plans that I just can’t get enough of. The measurements of the rooms, the placement of doorways, the way amenities have been arranged in a house, I consume it all with great gusto.

Say the house has two open-plan lounge rooms, separated by a hallway with a three-walled dining room in between. Immediately you know that if you’re planning a large dinner party, your guests will flow seamlessly from room to spacious room, but so will their hyperactive kids. The house also only has one bathroom between three bedrooms, a recipe for morning routine madness. I distinctly remember seeing a plan for a two story house where each bedroom had it’s own ensuite and thinking to myself  “now THAT is a nice house”. I was also nine at the time and thought I was responsible enough to clean my very own bathroom on a regular basis (I was not).

Don’t get me wrong, I adore browsing through the stunning photos on the Porter Davis website as much as the next person, but they don’t give you the full picture. Sure, the decor looks wonderful and everything fits cohesively with the aesthetic of the display home, but you know what else looks amazing in perfectly manicured photos? Hollywood actors. Tinder profiles. Big Macs. If anyone can show me a real life Big Mac that actually tastes as good as the photos look, I will take it from you and eat it immediately. Lucky for you, that is never going to happen because much like the Porter Davis display homes, everything about a Big Mac photo is artificially enticing.

Floor plans are rough, raw, and no unseemly feature goes unnoticed. They don’t lie to you about the size of their rumpus room. They don’t call their interior walls ‘cerulean’ when they could have just said ‘bright blue’. They don’t try to convince you one layout is inherently better than another. They tell it like it is and let you decide what will work best for your needs.

I think if floor plans were people, we’d be great friends.

When I’m not a law student, I’m stockpiling Instagram photos

This one has definitely been put on the back burner since starting law school, but there was a time in the not so distant past when I loved designing the layout of my Instagram.

Say what you will about Instagram, I consider it a fantastic creative outlet, especially now that the numbers of ‘likes’ have been hidden from posts. I love putting together a series of photos clustered by subject matter or colour or location and mix and match them through my feed. For me, it was never really about the followers, but I could appreciate larger profiles and the way they went about developing a niche. Sometimes you just really want to be in bed with a cup of tea while scrolling through pictures of colourful milkshakes, you know?

In the year between wrapping up my undergrad degree and starting at MLS, I treated the platform more like a research tool. I would take a series of shots all in one day around some idea or theme and see if I could arrange them together to get the most traction. My favourite series involved the recently released, brightly coloured Harry Potter books, a jar of gold flakes, and my silky red dressing gown. I also became interested in the ‘insight’ functions Instagram offers to business profiles, so of course I turned my profile into a public artist’s profile (@rkpoynton follow4follow). I would tag posts with locations that were frequently viewed and a cluster of trending tags, just to see who would happen across my profile. Think ‘unrelated caption’ with a photo I took on holiday 18 months ago tagged with a lot of current-affair buzzwords.

By the end of 2018, I realised I was better off sticking with acting. Instagram was a huge time investment that required a lot of careful consideration and effort I was not willing to give. I’ve still kept up a few of the tricks, but I’ve mostly just archived a lot of posts and accepted that typing Consti notes in the level 5 kitchen while wearing a pair of trackies and a novelty t-shirt is not very aesthetic. I still have 18 draft pictures sitting around waiting to be posted or (more likely) deleted and still keep ideas in the back of my mind, but for the most part, I just like watching people’s Insta stories. 

Rebecca Poynton is
(more than just)
a first year JD student

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