Emily Dobbs – Jagged Fence Theatre Company

Copyright Charlie Carter

After training at Central School of Speech & Drama, Emily went on to found Jagged Fence Theatre Company. Their most recent production was a critically acclaimed adaptation of ‘The Seagull’ by Anya Reiss.

How did Jagged Fence come about? Did you always aspire to be a producer?

Well no, at first it was a vehicle for me to act really, me and a couple of other girls who I trained with at Central. But then I realised that I had a certain aptitude for producing and I began to enjoy that side of it more and more. After a couple of years of producing and acting in Jagged Fence productions, I then produced the first play that I wasn’t in, ‘Lizzie Finn’ at Southwark Playhouse.

How did you find taking a step back from acting for ‘Lizzie Finn’?

It completely changed my whole outlook, and actually I didn’t really enjoy that first process very much! But it was good in a sense, because it made me really differentiate between my job roles in different productions. Now, the ones that I exclusively produce, I can enjoy and focus on producing, and the ones I’m going to be in…I’m very clear about that from the beginning with both myself and the creative team.

Is producing something that’s grown on you then?

Yes. I feel now….that I don’t think I could be just an actress. I’d hate the life….I think if I hadn’t started producing, I’d probably still be trying to make a career in acting, but there’s no way I’d have done the plays that I’ve done, or have the agent that I’ve got, if I hadn’t started the company. I love the fact that now I have the freedom to create something from nothing.         

Do you feel that your producing work has helped or hindered your acting career in any way?

Yes – it’s helped me, it’s given me much more confidence. I don’t have that desperate feeling that can sometimes creep in when you’re not working – it’s empowering, and I’ve always got projects on the go to talk about.

What’s the most challenging the about acting & producing on the same project?

It can be weird to be in a position of control throughout the planning stages, and then relinquish that and take a more submissive role as an actor in the rehearsal room. Also, I think other people are sometimes a bit disconcerted by the fact that you do more than one thing – they don’t quite know which box to put you in.

Does producing help you to earn more of your living creatively rather than doing ‘day jobs’ like waitressing or temping?

Yes, definitely, running the company helps to keep me away from temp jobs. I’ve recently started to think a bit more commercially about our choices, but I still wouldn’t do a production that I didn’t believe in creatively.

Any individuals or companies that you particularly aspire to?

Simon McBurney of Complicite. I think their stuff is really rich and daring, but they have a big international following – lots of people see it. I’d like my company to be in that position in 10 years time!

Check out Jagged Fence Theatre Company’s website and twitter @jaggedfence

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