Conversation with Emily Dobbs: Actor & Founder of 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. Continue reading


Jack of all trades syndrome

Nearly all the multi-tasking ‘polymaths’ I speak to have moments of feeling overwhelmed……occasionally worried that they risk spreading themselves too thinly and being labelled a ‘Jack of all Trades, master of None’.

I have watched a polymath friend of mine become visibly more stressed over the past few weeks, as she struggles to juggle an acting career with the demands of simultaneously producing several theatre shows at once, as well as trying to make sure she keeps a roof over her head by temping. It’s a common problem, especially for those of us who are not blessed with the financial resources to dedicate ourselves full-time to creative pursuits. What I’ve learnt from meeting and researching many creatives who opt for a polymathic approach, is that we each have our ‘breaking point’ and we must learn to recognise what it is for us. Continue reading

Meet multi-tasking actor Katie Lyons

Katie is an actor, currently appearing in BBC3’s new comedy series Bluestone 42. She is also a writer, private tutor, work-shop leader and (sometimes) producer.

Was it a conscious decision to become a ‘polymath’, or something that happened organically over time? I think it’s in my nature…I’ve always wanted to do lots of things. It’s that, combined with the need to survive. After an initial run of work when I first started acting, I was working as a waitress in a hospital, and I ended up not getting a call from my agent for 3 months. I just found it really frustrating…feeling like you’re not in control of it, and so I think that what’s driven me to be a ‘polymath’.

What was your first leap into polymathy? My friend Morgan and I wrote and produced a show for the Edinburgh festival, and after that we were fortunate enough to get onto a BBC scheme called ‘comedy college’ and that was probably when I started saying ‘actually, I can write..I am a writer’. We produced all our Edinburgh shows ourselves out of necessity, but the one year we did end up going with a production company, was the one year we lost money!

Which have been your favourite experiences? Do you prefer just acting or do you like to be more creatively involved? I think I would creatively be frustrated if acting was all I did…. Continue reading