A few graduates of the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) are set to trade the warm and cozy performing space of Napa’s auditorium for the spacious halls at the Southbank Centre. They will be performing an Urdu adaptation of A Winter’s Tale as Fasana-e-Ajaib at the Alchemy Festival in England.
During a conversation with The Express Tribune, Zain Ahmed, artistic director of Napa Repertory Theatre (NRT) confirmed that their performance is scheduled to take place on May 29. Should the performance materialise it would be the first instance of NRT performing in England.
While the theatre company is scheduled to participate in the festival, Ahmed doesn’t want to get carried away with excitement. Given the academy’s checkered history with visa issues he went on to mention that, “Nothing will be finalised until we receive our visas for the United Kingdom (UK).” Napa recently had to bring its International Theatre Festival to a premature end after Indian troupes were not issued visas to visit Pakistan.
Directed by Gregory Thompson, Fasana-e-Ajaib was initially performed at Napa in 2014. The cast for the play includes thespians such as Fawad Khan, Sunil Shankar, Aiman Tariq and Adnan Jaffar to name a few.
The cast comprises mostly of Napa alumnus with no current students involved in the production, a decision Ahmed said was taken due to logistical reasons. “This play was always meant to be something NRT could travel with (perform outside Karachi) and since graduates have flexible routines, we chose to take them on board”, state Ahmed. Cast member Fawad Khan said that, while the production quality is going to “remain as good” as its original run, there are going to be a few minor changes in the cast.
Although the troupe is not going to perform the play in England before May 29, the NRT is hopeful of staging a few performances in Karachi as part of a dress rehearsal before the group’s departure. While Thompson is likely to link up with the rest of the team in UK, NRT is making efforts to bring him on board for the rehearsals. “We are trying to get Gregory [Thompson] to join us for us at least 10 days or so but all of that depends on his schedule,” remarked Khan.
An adaptation of Shakespeare’s problem play, Fasana-e-Ajaib follows the story of a king who suspects his wife of cheating on him. Despite being an adaptation the director has made a few changes to the play so that it could resonate better with local audiences. “Fasana-e-Ajaib also touches upon issues that are prevalent in our society such as karo-kari (honour killing),” elaborates Khan.
While the original was set in Sicily, Thompson’s adaptation of the play is set in the Mughal Empire and unlike Shakespeare’s 16-year time lapse, the director incorporates a time jump of nearly four centuries. As the play is being performed in Urdu there are question marks whether it would be able to illicit the same kind of impact on British audiences as it had on Pakistani viewers. Brushing aside these concerns, Khan replied that people all over the world were familiar with Shakespeare’s writings. “I don’t think that would be an issue. And even if there was one we are already looking into the possibility of using subtitles in our performance,” he added. The Alchemy Festival will commence on May 4.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2016.
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