Auckland Pop Up Globe backtracks on men-only casts after backlash

Source: 1News

Auckland's Pop Up Globe theatre has backtracked, saying it will no longer use all-male casts in its productions of Shakespeare's plays.

It's coming back with four productions at a new home at Ellerslie Racecourse with some new features.

The company faced a backlash after it announced last week that its November shows, which include men-only performances of Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew, would highlight the abuse of power in a number of Shakespeare's plays.

Performers, theatre-makers and playwrights said it was unacceptable for the company to use #metoo and #timesup in marketing campaigns because the movements are centred around women's response to rape and sexual harassment. 

They were angry The Taming of the Shrew was being called a feminist endeavour when it was to be performed by an all-male cast.

In a statement posted on Twitter today, the company said, "At Pop-up Globe we strive to make work that brings unity, joy and hope. The response to our upcoming Auckland season has made us think about how we can do this better. So we’re making a change.

"From today we are making a commitment to cast equal numbers of male and female actors for every new Auckland season."

In the 2018/19 Auckland season of The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, Measure for Measure, and Hamlet, 14 women and 14 men will make up two 50:50 gender-balanced casts, the company said.

"In any future seasons we will work within this commitment to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of the work we produce, celebrating and sharing the magic of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Pop Up Globe said it appreciates this is a change to its published casting and has offered refunds if people want them for tickets bought to The Taming of the Shrew or Richard III.

“Thank you to everyone who has given us their feedback. We’re very grateful,” Dr Miles Gregory Artistic Director and Founder of Pop-up Globe tweeted.

Dr Gregory last week acknowledged the decision to do two of the plays with only male actors would not please everyone.

"If there was one thing about this season that I thought was particularly controversial, it has to be the choice to do The Taming of the Shrew with an all-male company," he told RNZ's Nine to Noon.

"To perform it all-male with a feminist reading is intriguing. It'll be very funny but it'll also make you think,” he said.