PLAYING a real person on stage is a challenge, admits Glasgow actor Iman Akhtar.

It is doubly unsettling, however, when that person is not only alive and well, but also performing in the same production…

“It’s completely nerve-wracking,” grimaces Iman, who is from the city’s Southside. “Most times, as an actor, you are playing someone completely fictional, who has been made up in the writer’s brain.

“This feels like a huge responsibility.”

Glasgow Times: Iman with Anne in When Mountains Meet

Iman is starring in When Mountains Meet, a fascinating true story about renowned Scottish violinist and composer Anne Wood, who met her Pakistani father for the first time in her 20s.

Featuring an international cast of storytellers and musicians, the show includes a vibrant live score combining alap, raag, reel and strathspey, as well as English, Gaelic and Hindustani vocals.

Glasgow Times: Iman Akhtar

Anne, who has performed with a host of acts including Deacon Blue and Michael Marra, explains: “When Mountains Meet grew out of my wish to share the incredible journey I had getting to know my dad and his country.

“He didn’t know I had been born, but replied quickly to my tentative letter introducing myself, completely accepting me into his life as we developed a fiery but loving father-daughter relationship.

Glasgow Times: Iman Akhtar

“There were physical journeys between Scotland to Pakistan, but also powerful emotional journeys on both sides. More than thirty years later I feel ready to share this story.”

Iman, who plays one of the storytellers as well as the young Anne, says: “It is such a fun, uplifting show, beautifully merging different cultures, and the live music is stunning.

“Anne has been so kind and generous, she has kept me on track. It’s actually a huge privilege to have the person you are playing so within reach.”

Glasgow Times: Iman Akhtar

She adds: “It has also made me think about my own identity, my own journey - how all things in life, no matter how small, can shape you.”

Iman was “bitten by the acting bug” at the age of eight, when she landed a role in a Pakistani drama filming in Glasgow.

Glasgow Times: The cast of When Mountains Meet

“I did school shows and joined my local youth theatre group, Harlequin, which was the best informal training I could have had,” she says, enthusiastically. “We did two shows a year, and it was so professionally done.”

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It was by no means certain Iman would pursue acting as a career, however.

“I was very lucky my family supported me and came to my shows, while it was my hobby – but they were not 100 percent happy about me doing it as my career,” she says, slowly.

“I understood why, it was coming from a place of care. They wanted me to understand how important it was to have a reliable income. And it can be very difficult in the arts.”

She adds, smiling: “So, I did a degree in physiotherapy, and once I graduated – during the pandemic, not ideal – my parents said, okay, you can do what you want now.”

Glasgow Times: Anne Wood

Since then, Iman has appeared in a number of stage and screen productions, including the Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan movie The Lost King, and The Great Muslim Panto: Beauty and the Ballah, a South Asian version of the classic tale.

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“That was joyous,” she beams. “I think there has been a lack of South Asian representation in the media, not just in Scotland, and that is hard - but there are more opportunities now.

“When I saw the call-out for a young Scottish-Pakistani woman, I was like, oh my GOD, finally, someone actually wants an actor who looks like me.”

She adds, with a laugh: “That is really rare in Scotland. Parts like this do not come along very often.

“I do get contacted by young South Asian girls, who are keen on giving acting a shot, looking for advice. I give them as much as I know, but I still feel like I have quite a way to go too.”

Iman pauses.

“I’m happy to hold the door open for everyone else, however,” she nods.

“We’re breaking down a lot of barriers getting these parts, and what is it all about, if not being able to help others?”

When Mountains Meet is at Cottiers in the West End on May 21 and 22, and at Paisley Arts Centre on May 31, as part of its Scotland-wide tour.