An Interview with Iskander Javed : His first performance and choosing to work with The Tower Theatre
In conversation with Fred Varley
In April 2019, Iskander Javed took on the role of Sam in the Tower Theatre's production of Matt Hartley's Deposit, which was originally first performed on stage in 2015 at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, in London.
This will be Iskander's first performance for the Tower Theatre, and I wanted to get a first-hand perspective on his experience with this play, his previous stage experience; as well as why he chose to join this particular theatre company and how he has found the process of joining.
How long have you been interested in acting?
Always. I've been doing acting classes since primary school. At first I just loved the performing aspect, the feel of being up on stage in front of people. But since then I've come to love embodying the character of a play.
What sort of work have you previously done?
I stopped acting for a while and went into regular paid jobs. But within the last few years I have rebuilt my experience. I have done a few stage productions with City Academy, and The Old Country with the Incognito Theatre, as well as an adaptation of Tartuffe with the Theatre in the Square company.
In your experience what is the most challenging aspect of the acting profession?
I suppose I can find it quite nerve-wracking, the first time you present your character to an audience. We invest so much time and effort into establishing and embodying these characters throughout the rehearsal period and suddenly, come opening night, we find ourselves vulnerable to audience judgement. I suppose as actors we are constantly putting ourselves into positions in which we know we are being judged; it is daunting and at times can induce self-doubt (even if beforehand I had felt very confident in my performance).
What made you decide to join the Tower Theatre?
Initially I saw information on the internet and came to see a few shows before I joined, such as Table and I was very impressed by the quality. I found that they did up to twenty plays a year which meant that there were a lot of opportunities to act.
How did you find the audition process?
The audition to join the Company was slightly daunting, as I suppose all auditions are, especially when it is in front of a panel of five.
What made you specifically want to audition for the role in Deposit?
I thought Deposit had an interesting premise and I fitted the criteria, so once I passed my company audition I thought it would be a good audition experience more than anything.
I really enjoyed the audition for my part; it was very free and we had a lot of different activities to help get us into the role of the characters.
What did you think of the character of Sam?
Did you feel he was depicted as an unsympathetic character?
I can understand at face value how he could be perceived as being unsympathetic and even slightly cruel at times, but I think from his perspective he is simply doing what he feels best for him. He makes an effort to an extent to be civil with Ben and Rachel but never really allows his relationship with them to extend past this point. I think this is partly down to the fact that he is in many ways an introvert and slightly socially awkward. He isn't one to become complacent, and he keeps his mind firmly set on owning a property. That's why when the potential opportunity presents itself he is very quick to take it. He is driven, pragmatic and hardworking and feels strongly that his living conditions (owning a house) should reflect this. I find in large parts Sam is responsible for initiating an us (himself and Melanie) vs them (Ben and Rachel) mentality. It is important to him that Melanie (his girlfriend) is on his side and he can be manipulative if need be to ensure this.
What has your experience been like working on your first play for the Tower Theatre Company?
At first it very much overlapped with my previous Alan Bennett play, and they have been very accommodating towards that. I have really enjoyed working with the cast and Martin, the director. Even though it has been full on, there have been enjoyable sessions.
How does it differ from your previous experience with other production companies?
The stage management and the stage crew have been more hands-on; there has been a lot more thought early on about the technicalities and the set-up of the stage, whereas generally that is left to the last minute with other companies.
It has also been nice having a consistent rehearsal space, which again is something other theatre companies have difficulty obtaining.
If someone asked you why they should see this play, what would you say to them?
I think it is relevant for younger people at the moment; it does raise some serious and very identifiable issues which people can really relate to. The play reflects the issues young people face when living and working in London today. There is an underlying theme of generation-rent and the sacrifices people make in order to own a home.
The main focus of the play is survival and getting by, which is a relatable concept for an audience to get behind.
What has been the most challenging part of this play?
Being on stage full time, and the working out the technicalities within the changeovers in the scene.
Would you recommend joining the Tower Theatre to other people looking to work in the theatre?
Absolutely. I think there is a fantastic range of plays, and other companies don't provide as many opportunities as this one does.