Life After Lucy - Ginny Davis
by Judith Roberts on 8 November 2016
Ginny Davis, Law (1984)
After having read Law at Lucy I was called to the Bar in 1989 and practised criminal law until my first child was born. At that point, with no regrets, I became a full-time parent. Another child arrived later, and when both had started school I joined the Parents' Association. My job was to devise and create new social and fundraising events. My first was a Parents' Revue. Any parents with any talent took part. We had singers, dancers, a magician, an Eastenders actor and Renee from Renee and Renato whose “Save Your Love” had topped the charts in 1982. This may sound like a smart London prep school but it was just a county school that had hit a purple patch. My contribution was “Mrs Bridget Jones Diary” a satirical sketch on life as a stay at home mum, influenced by Helen Fielding's character and inspired by the funny side of parenting which, later rather than sooner, I had come to recognise. I had discovered that one person's stress and embarrassment was another person's laugh (Miranda Hart knows this too) and that the most delicious laughs of all are those which respond to situations closest to the truth, so I drew on experience – not just mine, but that of others struggling with the day to day challenges of parenting. This sketch was my first attempt at public performance and to my joy and amazement people laughed, so I continued to write sketches featuring the same character until shortly after the turn of the millennium I combined them into a single, one act, one woman play in which, to avoid confusion, Bridget Jones changed her name to Ruth Rich. The play was “Ten Days … that shook the Kitchen!” I sent mailings to all local schools in the hope of performing to parent groups further afield. No-one replied. I shrugged and returned to parenting.
My father was a risk taker. (His first fiancé was an actress – a risky choice of potential bride whose name we were forbidden to mention at home). In 2007 he died, leaving me a legacy in his Will. That summer I visited the Edinburgh Fringe and decided that the best use of Dad's legacy would to invest in taking my little play to the Fringe. A risk if ever there were one, but in 2008 “Ten Days.. “ was performed at Sweet Venues, Edinburgh. It could have gone so badly. Joan Rivers performed at the same Fringe. She knew what she was doing. I didn't. But, luckily, it turned out that my sense of humour was shared beyond Warwick and the show sold out. I also discovered the addictive quality of an audience's laughter. One successful show made me want more, so I carried on writing and performing – with a ready source of material as my children and their friends grew up and the challenges and humour never ceased to change and grow. By 2014 I had five different plays in what had become the Ruth Rich Saga. I'd returned to Edinburgh twice and was now performing most weeks at small theatre venues, village and community halls all over the country. One aspect of this I love is rural touring. This is a nationwide network of venues organised by local volunteers who work to bring professional theatre to their community. Every venue and audience is unique but the special quality of rural touring is community spirit which brings audiences together even when there's something brilliant to watch on the TV.
In 2014 I killed off my best character in the fifth play in the Ruth Rich Saga. Poor old granny, she was slightly deaf, a bit confused and didn't see the car coming. That was the end of the Saga and it was time to do something new. But what else could I write about? I only really knew about family life – and my Greek harehound, who featured in my play “Hound Dog” at the 2013 Fringe because I thought the story of how she was rescued from a life of misery and neglect in Crete and ended up in our family was worthy of a play.
Maybe the Law? It had never been far away because I married another barrister who is now a judge. So last year I polished up my legal nouse and, with a lot of technical, up to date advice from him, wrote “Learned Friends”, a courtroom drama. It hasn't been to Edinburgh yet. But in October 2016 it was performed at the Old Bailey. And I know a bit about Women's Institutes too, because I regularly present “To the Fringe and Beyond” to meetings. It is a talk in which I tell my story and encourage members to get up and get on with the pastime or challenge they might have been putting off because in pursuing this career, which I love, I have found fulfilment, and that, I now know, is a blessing.
What does this have to do with Lucy? Don't I feel bad about not using the legal qualifications I worked so hard to achieve? Initially yes I did. But now I realise that Lucy's legacy isn't always obvious. I had no confidence when I arrived in 1984. But the degree I gained at Lucy gave me belief in myself. It also qualified me to train as a barrister, where I overcame any fear of public performance. Without Lucy none of this would have been possible.
What's next? I've just completed research into judicial punishment from the 16th to 20th centuries and my new talk “From the Pillory to the Prison Cell” is ready. More plays? I need a subject. It will have to be about a world I recognise. Maybe I could write about being a mature female student in a fantastically supportive and unique college at the best university in the world.