All-male Shakespeare cast causes sexism row

The Pop-up Globe Theatre in Auckland Image copyright Peter Meecham
Image caption The Pop-up Globe performs in a temporary replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at venues in Australia and New Zealand

The founder of Auckland's Pop-up Globe theatre in New Zealand has apologised for casting only male actors in forthcoming productions and using the #MeToo campaign hashtag to promote them.

The theatre group is to perform Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew in its forthcoming season on the abuse of power, and founder Miles Gregory has stuck with the 16th Century tradition of casting men in female parts, national broadcaster Radio New Zealand reports.

However, there's been upset that the theatre used hashtags used by equality movements to highlight misogyny and sexism in a press release announcing the productions.

"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," the theatre company said.

But this has led to a call to boycott the theatre and for sponsors to withdraw their support, the Stuff news website reports.

'If I be waspish, best beware my sting'

Speaking to TV New Zealand, performer and activist Lexie Matheson said the all-male casts, particularly considering the subject matter of The Taming of the Shrew, seemed to fly in the face of the whole point of the #MeToo movement.

"To have an all-male cast of Shakespeare's play about misogyny, where the whole tenor of the play is the battle of the sexes... just seems bizarre," Ms Matheson said.

The productions did the exact opposite of what the #MeToo movement intended, theatre artist and filmmaker Julia Campbell told Radio New Zealand.

"It's an issue of women working in the theatre. It's employment and opportunities for women that are lost when all the casting's gone to men," she said.

Image copyright Wikimedia/Oscaroscar1837
Image caption The all-male controversy has lead to calls for a boycott

'And thereby hangs a tale.'

Mr Gregory acknowledged that the all-male casting would be controversial, telling Radio NZ that "to perform it all-male with a feminist reading is intriguing. It'll be very funny but it'll also make you think."

But Mr Gregory also conceded, in a series of tweets on the Pop-up Globe account, that by referencing #MeToo and #TimesUp, he had offended people "very deeply".

"We are a young organisation, we are learning, and we don't get everything right. It is clear that today we haven't," he said. "I've let you down."

Reporting by Alistair Coleman, Tse Yin Lee

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