Ugly Shakespeare announces all-female cast to counter Pop-up Globe

In response to a controversial all-male cast of The Taming of the Shrew, Ugly Shakespeare will perform its own take on the play - with women only.

The Pop-up Globe announced on Tuesday that its upcoming season would consist of two casts - one all-male and one mixed gender. The company's intention to perform William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew - a play that deals explicitly with misogyny - with no women onstage upset and angered many in the theatre community.

Now, the Ugly Shakespeare theatre troupe has revealed that it too will tackle the famous play about the 'battle of the sexes', but with an all-female cast.

Founder and producer Richard Green says it's time for theatre to drop men-only casts in the name of "authenticity".

"If I'm honest, we also employed all-male casts until fairly recently - we also used the 'authenticity' argument," he says.

"But on reflection that wasn't a valid reason to lock women actors out of the roles, or to somehow perpetuate the very ancient view that men are just as capable as interpreting and nuancing female roles as women are."

In Elizabethan England, women were forbidden from acting onstage so all roles were played by men - a discriminatory practice Mr Green sees no reason for continuing.

"This an era where we are saying it's not okay to keep accepting behaviours just because that's the way it's always happened - we are celebrating the huge changes in our society over the last 125 years, and we acknowledge that our society is no longer defined just by how (white) men act."

He says the Pop-up Globe's production might get laughs because cross-dressing is still seen as inherently funny, but the casting decision "doesn't sit so well in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand".

"Why would you perform probably the most performed and referenced play about the relationship between the sexes without including women?"

He hopes Ugly Shakespeare's gender-blind casting will spark conversation among students.

"It will be interesting to see whether they really think Shakespeare would have limited his performances to men only if the society he lived in was not bound by such church-driven, hierarchical, misogynist, and classist regulations."

Ugly Shakespeare will also perform Hamlet with a mixed-gender cast. Mr Green told Newshub their cast members play roles with no consideration given to gender, which means there's every chance a woman will be cast as the Dane - regarded as the character every actor dreams of playing.

"We have also toured with trans actors, so it may be neither [man nor woman]. The work develops out of the cast we have during rehearsals."

Summer Shakespeare Wellington have also announced that they will stage Hamlet with a woman in the titular role.

"Shakespeare wrote to challenge his audiences and make them think - we want to keep doing that, but without perpetuating what the men in the cast and in the audience think that's important," says Mr Green.

The 24th National Tour of Ugly Shakespeare tours the South Island between February and March 2019, and the North Island in between April and June.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: