The Pop-up Globe ‘Abuse of Power’: In their own words [UPDATED – POP-UP GOES 50/50]

Collated by James Wenley

[Words, Words, Words]

Located in the beautiful gardens at Ellerslie Racecourse, Pop-up Globe will throw open its doors on 16 November to present four of Shakespeare’s masterworks tied together with the common thread of the “abuse of power”. As always, there’ll be a twist!

Headlining this showstopper season is the most famous play in history, Hamlet, alongside controversial “battle of the sexes” comedies The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure. The bloody and darkly comic tragedy Richard III completes the quartet.

Pop-up Globe founder and artistic director Dr Miles Gregory said the new season shines a light on the way that Shakespeare explores the abuse of power in his plays – resonating with stories that are occupying society today.

“In the age of Weinstein, #metoo and #timesup, it feels entirely right for us to reflect current conversations in the world through ambitious and thought-provoking programming. As is so often the case, Shakespeare seems to have got there first.”

Press Release: ‘Pop-up Globe Announces Most Controversial Season yet‘, Tuesday, 17 July 2018, 9:27 am. 

It has become very clear that referencing these movements has offended and upset many people, some deeply.

This was not my intention. I am very sorry, and wish to offer a heartfelt apology for the offence that my words have caused.

Dr Miles Gregory, Pop-up Globe artistic director, Pop-up Globe Facebook post, Thursday, 19 July 2018, 1:45pm.

I tell you what Dr Gregory, utilising a global movement which at its core is about women being subjugated, marginalised and diminished to promote your male heavy fiesta feels pretty much entirely wrong to me.  Simultaneously evoking a tidal wave in the affairs of women whilst erasing them from the stage shows a tone-deaf audacity of Trumpian proportions. To use the sexual predation and assault of women as a pithy by-line is beyond vile. In one breath they call The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare’s proto-feminist piece, but then tell us that this feminism will be best delivered by an ALL-MALE cast. Guess we ladies might just get a bit angry, strident and shrill. Y’know, like I AM RIGHT FUCKING NOW! 

– Penny Ashton, Performer, ‘#notyourstoo: On the Pop-Up-Globe’s ‘Abuse of Power’ season’, The Spinoff, 18 July 2018.

[It is] appropriating a movement that was about men’s abuse of women and about really personal experiences that happened to people, and using that as a marketing tool for their productions, which do nothing to support women and in fact take away a lot of power away from women… [it is] an awful thing to be doing.

Do you actually understand what #metoo is, or are you just grabbing some buzz words? If you want to create controversy, don’t do that about abuse of other people, don’t do that on a topic that can trigger really awful memories experiences that people have had. It’s not an appropriate topic to play with

– Fiona McNamara, Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager quoted in Felix Desmarais, ‘Pop up Globe: Artistic director apologises for using #metoo in all-male Shakespeare promotion’, Stuff, 19 July, 2018.

Dr Gregory wasn’t able to be reached for a response, but a spokesperson for him said last night the decision to use all-male casts adhered to tradition as only men acted during Shakespeare’s time.

RNZ, Pop-up Globe’s all-male cast ‘seems bizarre, 18 July 2018.

Why do we still present all-male casts of Shakespeare as “innovative” and “authentic” and “interesting” because they’re “traditional”. I have a difficult time pretending I’m not insulted and disappointed whenever a major company presents an all-male cast as a performance that will transport the audience back to the original Elizabethan world. It’s a bit of a middle finger to how far we’ve come and how painfully far we have to go: “Hey, I have an idea, let’s make this an all-male cast to celebrate the good old days when we didn’t have to share the stage or any roles with the ladies. Remember when they used to be our property as well? That was great.”

Laura Irish, Actor, Where art thou women? On the Pop-Up Globe’s regressive casting decisions, The Spinoff, 4 November 2016.

We believe that because Shakespeare originally wrote his plays for an all-male company, part of our artistic output should incorporate all-male productions performed in historically accurate costume.

Tobias Grant, Pop-up Globe producer, quoted in Actors hit out at Pop-Up Globe’s traditional Shakespearean casting of men in women’s roles, NZ Herald, 12 January 2017. 

Only 12 per cent of Shakespeare’s entire roles are female and that means already women are under-represented in what is the most dominating playwright in Western history so why would you go even further and cast all men? It is sexist. It’s invisible sexism.

Stella Reid, Director, quoted in Actors hit out at Pop-Up Globe’s traditional Shakespearean casting of men in women’s roles, NZ Herald, 12 January 2017. 

Before casting merely four women in a company of 29 actors I would be asking myself seriously what I was doing and if the benefits of it outweighed the consequences. [Is it] worth taking women off the payroll, being sexist, offending, continuing to tell stories and history through a male lens, taking away ownership from women. It’s unacceptable in other forms of theatre. No one would perform a minstrel show in blackface because it’s ‘historically accurate’.

Dr Lori Leigh, Senior Lecturer in Theatre Victoria University, quoted in Pop-Up Globe criticism: No one would perform a minstrel show because it’s ‘historically accurate’, NZ Herald, 13 January 2017. 

MG: Publically criticising artists for the gender balance in their work, to me, is dangerous. Because it can go both ways. It becomes a tool. It politicises work.

KP: Gender is political.

MG: Everything’s political.

Miles Gregory and Kate Prior, Critic, We Strive To Please: An Interview with Pop-up Globe’s Miles Gregory, The Pantograph Punch, 29 April 2017.

We know that Shakespeare’s actors were all male. His leading female parts, so richly and variously written, were written for skilled apprentices – boys and adolescent young men trained over years by senior actors. In what we might call the taxonomy of gender roles in Shakespeare’s day, boys were as apt to be classed with women – in not being adult men – as they were to be ranked with their same-gender superiors. There was therefore a clear, if to us unfamiliar, logic to the roles they played on stage: boys were, as it were, categorically, female.

Contemporary casts including adult male actors in female roles are therefore interesting and innovative, but represent a different set of concerns and styles than would have been raised by Shakespeare’s settled practice, even if we set aside issues of pantomime and drag-performance cross-dressing that inevitably haunt our own adult-male versions of female impersonation. To ‘do it historically’ we would need access to suitably-trained young men prepared to forgo the more modern vocabularies and styles of ‘camp’ – but we no longer have easy access to such actors. Our nearest analogue is perhaps, paradoxically, female actors!

Professor Tom Bishop, English & Drama University of Auckland, A Most Rare Vision, The Pantograph Punch, March 28 2016.

Source: The Pantograph Punch 

KP: Are you saying that men onstage sell tickets more than women?

MG: No, what I’m saying is that in our first season we experimented with an all-male company and it sold a lot of tickets.

To be accurate – in our first season, we had one company of 16 actors but the 13 men in it made a separate show. So we knew that sold a lot of tickets last season. And I’d never actually made all-male work before, so we did it as a bit of an experiment for me, to see what it was like making some all-male Shakespeare. This season we’ve just done exactly the same as we did in our first season, except that we’ve doubled our output, so we have one all-male company and one mixed company. And they each make two shows.

So the shows we make have to respond to those circumstances. If we’d returned to the space this year but made much riskier work…

KP: What’s risky in this sense?

MG: Well risk in this sense is making work that we haven’t made before. Work that we haven’t seen to be financially successful, by which I mean selling tens of thousands of tickets.

KP: But do you mean risky work is casting women as women and men as men – that’s surely not what you’re saying is risky?

MG: Well I would say to you that all-female work is slightly risky.

KP: Ah, I’m not talking about all-female work – I simply mean mixed casts.

Miles Gregory and Kate Prior, Critic, We Strive To Please: An Interview with Pop-up Globe’s Miles Gregory, The Pantograph Punch, 29 April 2017.

Harking back to the era where women couldn’t vote, were categorised as their husband’s chattels and tampons were but an outlandish dream is incredibly offensive to female actors everywhere. We are already fighting for way less roles, and so to use historical oppression as an excuse for some fun modern oppression, well that can fuck right off. And thanks so very much for reminding us.

– Penny Ashton, Performer, ‘#notyourstoo: On the Pop-Up-Globe’s ‘Abuse of Power’ season’, The Spinoff, 18 July 2018.

One of the amazing things about theatre is that when it’s made by people from many different nationalities, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds it becomes greater than the sum of its parts. […]

I think when we’ve been around longer we’ll have the opportunity to work with many different people, and to make many different types of work. But since we’ve started we’ve worked frenetically to bring each season to pass, and there’s not been time really for reflection.

So we’re working at the moment under an artistic vision that will see us through for one more season, and I hope by then we’ll have time to consider the next three years.

– Miles Gregory to Kate Prior, We Strive To Please: An Interview with Pop-up Globe’s Miles Gregory, The Pantograph Punch, 29 April 2017

This forthcoming season takes as its theme the abuse of power, something that is very current in the world today. And indeed I suspect there has always been abuse of power – and Shakespeare’s plays show it in fact… Of the four we have The Taming of the Shrew, which is probably the classic battle of the sexes comedy. We’re presenting it with an all-male company, but they will be taking a feminist reading of the play. That’s exciting art that talks to current issues.

Miles Gregory to Kathryn Ryan, Pop-up globe founder on Shakespeare’s life changing theatre, RNZ Nine to Noon, 17 July 2018. 

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
They head, thy soverign, one that cares for thee
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel,
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women we are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace

Katherine in William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 5 Scene 2. c.1590-1592.

Many responses to the play are critical of the apparent inequalities it presents. This includes the earliest substantial response – John Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize, or the Tamer Tamed (c. 1611) – which concludes with the lesson that men ‘should not reign as Tyrants o’er their wives’ (Epilogue, l. 4). Indeed Fletcher’s play aims ‘to teach both Sexes due equality / And as they stand bound, to love mutually (Epilogue, ll. 7-8).’ Interpreting the power dynamics between men and women, in The Taming of the Shrew, an in particular the central couple Katherina and Petruchio, is a problem from the outset. Whether you see the relationships in the play as harmlessly boisterous and knockabout or tragically violent and oppressive, Shakespeare is clearly offering us his take on that perennial trope in both comedy and tragedy: the battle of the sexes. Before readers even consider critical or directorial interpretations, they face a perplexing text whose meaning, perhaps more than many of Shakespeare’s plays, seems to shift depending on the approach taken.

Rachel DeWacher, Power and gender in The Taming of the Shrew, British Library, 15 November 2016.

She ate not meat today, nor none shall eat.
Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not.
As with the meat, some undeserved fault
I’ll find about the making of the bed
He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak. ‘Tis charity to show.

Petruchio in William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4 Scene 1. c.1590-1592

MG: If there was one thing about this season that I thought was particularly controversial, it has to be I think the choice to do The Taming of the Shrew with an all-male company. It’s a play that is a protofeminist play. To perform it all male , with a feminist reading,I think is intriguing. It will be very good art. It’ll be very funny, but it will also make you think.

KR: As in characters all-male? We’re not talking about male actors playing female characters…?

MG: Oh no, we’re talking about an all male company, who perform both men and women.

Miles Gregory and Kathryn Ryan, Pop-up globe founder on Shakespeare’s life changing theatre, RNZ Nine to Noon, 17 July 2018. 

I can’t see how they’ll create a feminist piece when they only have male perspectives.

Erin O’Flaherty, Actor, quoted in Sophie Bateman, #MeToo-themed, but all-male? NZ Pop-up Globe’s Shakespeare play draws backlash, Newshub, 18 July 2018. 

This seems to fly in the face of that movement, even though it says the whole thing is being motivated by that… To have an all-male cast of Shakespeare’s play about misogyny where the whole tenor of the play [The Taming of the Shrew] is the battle of the sexes … just seems bizarre.

Lexie Matheson ONZM, AUT Lecturer and LGBTQI advocate quoted in RNZ, Pop-up Globe’s all-male cast ‘seems bizarre, 18 July 2018.

Seeing #metoo being used in the context of an all-male play is really upsetting. It really minimises women’s experience of assault and undermines the entire movement

I don’t have any problem with commercial success of the Pop-up Globe,  but I think it’s really dangerous to use a worldwide movement against sexual assault to promote the event. It’s not about wanting the Pop-up Globe to fail, it’s about wanting it to succeed for the right reasons.

Hannah Clarke, director of New Zealand Fringe Festival, quoted in Sophie Bateman, #MeToo-themed, but all-male? NZ Pop-up Globe’s Shakespeare play draws backlash, Newshub, 18 July 2018. 

Kanoa Lloyd: Do you take Penny’s point though that perhaps in order to tell these stories it would require some more females on stage?

Miles Gregory: We have a very interesting goal… which is to use an all-male cast of The Taming of the Shrew just as Shakespeare did to create a feminist message.

Penny Ashton: That’s ridiculous. To actually remove women from the equation to actually tell something that’s supposed to be empowering to women is just ludicrous.


Jesse Mulligan: We’re out of time. Miles last word to you. Are you going to change anything having heard these arguments?

Miles Gregory: I really hope that people come and see the work we make this summer and judge the work on its merits and see if we succeed in making a feminist reading of the play with an all-male cast.

Jesse Mulligan: I’d say its probably no but thank you for joining us tonight.

Pop-up Controversy, The Project, TV3, 18 July 2018.

Globe, my dear Globe, that I really, really do love: if you want to explore women’s stories, and women’s movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, if you want to be controversial and feminist and incisive, if you want to help move the world to that much vaunted post-Weinstein place, then kick down the fucking gates and give women the big interesting roles, let them tell their own stories, because men telling women’s stories about experiences with men through a man’s creative vision via an old dead man, well, that’s just mansplaining in iambic pentameter. Women couldn’t act Shakespeare’s work at the Globe in its own time. Here’s a perfect chance to rectify that oversight from history. Open the gates. Let women in, let them tell these stories you say you’re so interested in.

– Anna Klein, Pop-up Globe audience member, Mansplaining in Iambic Pentameter, AnnaKleinWrites, 18 July 2018.

Miles Gregory: My definition of feminist art is work that supports the empowerment of women and equality. We hoped that an all-male Taming of the Shrew which has a feminist reading of the play would be an interesting piece of art. We received a huge amount of feedback and generated a quite remarkable debate about whether that was right or not. And its pretty clear that it wasn’t right to make those comments.

[Re: intertitle: “But they haven’t committed to equal gender casting”]

MG: It’s a bit early for us to make very snap decisions about what we’re going to do.

Kerryn Palmer: My challenge to the Pop-up Globe, is if you are truly listening, and you truly feel apologetic about this, then you would now go forward and make it 50/50.

Miles Gregory and Kerryn Palmer, Theatre director and Teaching Fellow in Theatre Victoria University, interviewed for Re: Pop Up Globe says sorry for using #MeToo as marketing strategy, 20 July 2018

As a company we are listening to your feedback, and reflecting on our programming, our casting, and the future development of our company.

Miles Gregory, Pop-up Globe Facebook post, Thursday 19 July 2018, 1:45pm.


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.

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.

There may be different gender balances for individual productions, but there will be 50:50 gender balance on stage during a season.

We appreciate this is a change to our published casting. If you purchased a ticket to The Taming of the Shrew or Richard III and wish to have a refund please contact our ticketing partner Eventfinda on 0800 BUY TIX (289 849) or See for terms and conditions.

Thank you to everyone who has given us their feedback. We’re very grateful.

Miles Gregory, Pop-up Globe Facebook post, Friday, 27 July 2018, 2pm. 

2 Comments on The Pop-up Globe ‘Abuse of Power’: In their own words [UPDATED – POP-UP GOES 50/50]

  1. A note I’ve been drafting (and have posted on Facebook) in response to interviews with Miles Gregory, founder of the Pop-Up Globe Theatre:
    Like so many, I am happy to applaud the success of the Pop-up Globe in popularising Shakespeare in Auckland and elsewhere. Not that Willy has ever been that unpopular, as it turns out…
    However, I think I will be boycotting the Pop-up Globe performances.
    It’s not because a so-called “replica” made of clanging steel staircases and scaffolding pipes feels quite fake when compared to the experience of the more “genuine” Globe re-creation in London.
    It’s because two of the four productions freshly announced by the Pop-up Globe are to be played by all-male casts.
    It is irrelevant whether the prevention of female actors from playing Shakespearean roles in his time was according to the law of the day or merely conforming to that chauvinistic society’s unwritten rules of the period — that’s a matter that continues to be in dispute. But given the paucity of roles for women in Shakespeare’s work, as in the majority of theatre writing over the decades, indeed the centuries, to me it is unconscionable that the excuse of that now-disgraced “tradition” is still used to justify and propagate the use of all-male casts in Shakespearean productions today.
    Although gender-swapping and all-female casts risk falling into the trap of mere gimmickry, at least they can potentially be justified on the grounds of genuinely and seriously trying to explore the impact of gender politics through Shakespeare’s words, or as an attempt to redress the historical and continuing imbalance of opportunity between male and female actors. After all, Willy knew a strong female character when he wrote one!
    But to claim adherence to (and use of) today’s social politics to defend all-male casting is hypocritical in the extreme. To do it with “The Taming of the Shrew”, of all plays, simply confounds with its effrontery.
    I sincerely hope it is not so, but in a situation like this it’s hard to put aside the impression of misogyny in operation.
    I’m sorry if my stance offends anyone, but as a (male) professional theatre practitioner for over 40 years, for the reasons outlined above I find a male-only Shakespearean cast in today’s world extremely offensive!
    Tony Forster.
    PS: An irony that occurred to me as I drifted into wakefulness this morning:
    In Elizabethan times – note how we’ve named that period – a woman could be Queen of England but a woman could not play that role on stage!

    • Thank you Tony. Since Miles Gregory has indicated that they are listening, I encourage people who are concerned about the Pop-up Globe’s casting practices and approach to their 2018/2019 season to write to them:

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