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From studying international law to touring with your own theatre show

Graduating in international law and fulfilling a childhood dream by performing your own theatre show. Alumna Fleur Verhoeff has achieved both. How did she go from studying law to the performing arts? And how does her background in international law help?

What did you study and when did you graduate? 

I graduated with a degree in international law in 1999. After leaving school, I did a gap year spending three months in Oxford and five months in Grenoble. I loved Oxford – it was quite small, with an international atmosphere and a great student life. Actually, I wanted to stay there but my parents wouldn’t let me. Size-wise, Leiden is similar to Oxford. Still, it took me a while to settle in the beginning, but that’s perhaps more to do with my character … In the end, I really enjoyed it. 

Which lecturer do you remember most? 

Professor Dugard! He supervised my thesis which was about the extent to which European countries have applied the principle of universality. I found studying law hard going. But writing the thesis really appealed to me, especially the journalistic side to it. I’m also dyslexic which I think was an extra motivation to have a go at everything and want to learn as much as possible during my studies. 

You ended up doing something totally different to most law students, can you tell me about career path and how you got to where you are now? 

I have my own customised book publishing business. I’d chosen to study law because I liked so many different things and, like many people, I thought it would give me a broad, general foundation from which I could take many directions. After graduating, I applied mainly to charity organisations. The HR manager at the Red Cross said at the time that I was far too creative for such an administrative organisation. So, taking that advice to heart, I chose the creative path. First, I worked for a few years on the children’s TV programme Ernst, Bobbie & de Rest and then I worked for years for Dutch school television. In those years, while quite young, I had my children. Once, I bought a nasal spray for one of them and was given a children’s book as an extra. I read the book and thought, I can do a lot better than that. I now write a lot for medical science, putting complicated medical conditions into accessible language in children’s books.

Your own publishing business as a law graduate is unusual. But your own theatre show?

When I turned 40, I was very much leading a quiet working life with my family and young children. I decided that when I turned 50, I would put on a cabaret show. Even as a child, I’d dreamt of performing and even had my own theatre club in Wassenaar, where I’m from. When I was a student, I was active in the Leiden Student Theatre and made children's television for LUMC. But that still certainly doesn't make me a professional! A few years before my 50th birthday, I very consciously took a theatre course. For 18 months, I practised, learned and collected material. The course instructor became my director. Then, to mark my 50th birthday, I hired a theatre and invited 100 people, including family and friends. The show, 'Vucking Fijftig' was such a success that I’m now expanding it into a mini tour. Success is fun, but mainly because it gives me the chance to continue entertaining people and giving them a great night out.

Is your law degree still useful and do you still apply what your learned?

Yes, of course! I learned to think in an abstract way and to take in lots of information and then condense it. With my customised books, for example, I receive a lot of information from which I then have to extract the essence and turn it into a children's story. I’m sure my law degree helped prepare me for this. I really had to learn to think and how to study which took a lot of effort and I still benefit from that today. I’m very proud of myself for having studied law, I think it’s a great education.

What tip would you give our current students? 

It probably sounds rather predictable and it’s more difficult than you’d think: don’t do things just for the sake of your CV. Do as many things as possible that you actually enjoy and that give you energy.

And, of course, the guilty pleasure question ...

Binge watching Liga and Premier League football matches while eating a culinary McDonalds meal!

Finally, at the start of the New Year, do you have any wishes for yourself? 

I’m actually already working on this: touring with my ‘out-of-control’ hobby – my own theatre show ‘Vucking Fijftig’*

*for those interested: 25 May 2024 was sold out in three hours, but new dates on 2 June and 15 June (in Theatre Pepijn and De Liefde respectively) are in the offing.


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