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Isolation Interviews: Irvine Iqbal

Next up I have the brilliant Irvine Iqbal. Irvine is a fantastic actor and a champion for equality. Irvine's credits include Raj in The Boy in the Dress (RSC), The Sultan in Disney's Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre), Broken Wings (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Bend It Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre) and Bombay Dreams (Victoria Apollo).

Q - What was the first piece of theatre that you remember seeing?
A - Starlight Express and Me and my Girl on Broadway in New York in 1987.

Q - What inspired you to get into theatre/performing?
A - Luckily, I had gone to a school (Rossall School) where music and drama were encouraged. We had to choose an instrument and participate in daily activities. So while watching a school play version of West Side Story, I had an epiphany moment that performing was something I wanted to do. (Let’s not mention when Johnny Ball picked me from the audience to volunteer in his roadshow) 

Q - Who during your career has had the biggest impact on you?
A - My mother who has encouraged me and supported me from the beginning.

Q - What is your favourite musical movie?
A - West Side Story

Q - What are your favourite show tunes?
A - Mixed bag really, I’m obsessed with Sondheim who I consider to be the genius of our industry but I also love the music from Ragtime and Parade not to mention a little Disney.

Q - If you could tell your younger self something what would you tell them?
A - See more theatre!

Q - What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
A - Meet everyone you work with, know their name, get to the know them, always be polite and respectful.

Q - If you could have dinner with 3 theatre-related guests (doesn't have to just be performers). Who would you invite and why?
A - Stephen Sondheim, Raul Julia and Al Pacino. Any opportunity to dine with a hero!

Q -  If you were to write an autobiography of your life so far what would you call it and why?
A - Both not half - This represents my background and some of the choices I’ve taken.

Q - If you could play any of your previous roles again, who would you choose to play?
A - Has to be Raj. I  personally find comfort in comedy and he is someone who I know and a character audiences enjoy.

Irvine as Raj in The Boy in the Dress. Photo by Manuel Harlan (RSC)

Q - 
You recently completed the run of the new British musical, The Boy in the Dress, at the RSC playing shopkeeper Raj. How do you reflect on the experience?
A - For me, it was perfect timing having been in the West End for 5 years on different shows. Coming to Stratford upon Avon was a breath of fresh air away from the busy hub of London. Also, working with a great cast of young performers who were hungry to make a new musical work.

Q - Prior to The Boy in The Dress, you played The Sultan in Disney's Aladdin in London. Did you take much inspiration from the animated movie when it came to creating your performance?
A - No, although I’m a fan of the original animation. I wanted to bring something fresh and paternal to the character. I didn’t want to replicate or play a bumbling/clumsy character. I wanted to give the Sultan some regal and stern qualities being a father which the director agreed with. As actors, we should challenge ourselves to bring a fresh approach to a performance rather replicating what’s already been done.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?
A - I’m obsessed with watches and total nerd and fanatic.

Q -  Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you?
A - I collect film and theatre memorabilia. In my collection is Yul Bruyner’s costume from The King and I. (See Pic below)
Yul Brenner in The King and I.
I'd like to thank Irvine for his time and his brilliant insights. If you want to follow Irvine on Twitter visit


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