dailypeghamKARACHI: For an arts and culture institute, the National Academy of Performing Arts has had a very troubling relationship with visa approvals. From delayed departures for international theatre festivals to the limbo the academy is stuck in every time they invite Indian thespians to their events, Napa’s visa issues have been well documented over the years. And it seems as though the dark feline isn’t quite done crossing their paths just yet — The Napa Repertory Theatre (NRT) was recently forced to back out of the Alchemy Festival after, not surprisingly, their visas were delayed.

NRT’s performance of Fasana-e-Ajaib (an Urdu adaptation of A Winter’s Tale) was scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 29, at the Southbank Centre, London as part of the festival. Corroborating the news to The Express Tribune, Napa artistic director Zain Ahmed shared that the decision to call off the trip was taken in the wake of the delay in visas. “The first visa application that we submitted was in Tier 5 but it was rejected on the grounds that the sponsorship documents [from Southbank Centre] were incomplete,” he explained.

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Following the initial rejection, the organisers, Southbank Centre, had sent Napa a complete set of documents along with a letter requesting that performers be issued visas urgently. “After receiving the complete documents, we submitted our second application but have not received any response yet,” he said. The director added that no stone had been left unturned in ensuring that the troupe was issued visas on time. Fearing the worst, Zain shared that the 13-man contingent had applied for visas weeks in advance and was even willing to catch a last-minute flight to England on Saturday had they been issued visas by Friday.

Despite Napa’s previous series of unfortunate events, members of the troupe were still hoping for things to work out this time. One of them was lead actor, Fawad Ahmed Khan, who was taken aback by the visa delay that forced his team to call off the much anticipated trip. “This is really frustrating. From what I’ve heard people are issued United Kingdom visas within two or three days,” he remarked. He did not, however, link the situation with the one the troupe had faced earlier when traveling to India. “Whether you’re travelling to India alone or with Napa [from Pakistan], there are bound to be a few hiccups.”

NAPA festival sees premature closure

While participation in this year’s Alchemy Festival is out of the question, Zain shared that there still might be a light at the end of the tunnel. “The Southbank Centre has told us that they might readjust our performance in some other festival.” However, what was more concerning for the troupe was the amount of money they had spent on visa applications. “The initial application cost Rs36,000 per person. Whereas the second time round it rose to nearly Rs43,000 as we were applying on an urgent basis,” shared Fawad.

Had the trip materialised, it would have marked the first time that performers from Napa would have staged a play in England. It is pertinent to mention that recently, the Academy was forced to bring its International Theatre Festival to a premature end after Indian troupes failed to receive visas on time.