Frailty, thy name is woman

Published: Thu 19 Jul 2018 04:10 PM
Frailty, thy name is woman (unless you’re a cross dressing male actor)
Ugly Shakespeare Company announces a Pop Up Season of
TAMING OF THE SHREW – All female cast
2019 National Schools Tour
The Pop-up Globe is doing fantastic things for the industry, including introducing huge numbers of New Zealanders – many for the first time – to Shakespeare plays the way the original audiences might have experienced them.
But while using an all-male cast, capitalising on the ‘laughs’ caused by cross-dressing, might hark back to the days when only men were allowed to perform on stage, it doesn’t sit so well in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly given this year’s celebration of 125 years of Women’s Suffrage.
Those are the feelings of Ugly Shakespeare Company Founder and Producer, Richard Green, whose own theatre troop tours schools throughout the country, offering a humorous and potted introduction to Shakespeare to high school audiences.
“If I’m honest, we also employed all male casts until fairly recently, we also used the ‘authenticity’ argument.”
“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.”
“It’s a bit simplistic to say that Taming of the Shrew is just about the battle for supremacy between men and women, and like the anti-Semitic Merchant of Venice, there are parts that remain at odds with modern values no matter how they are interpreted and performed.”
“However, this is an era where we are saying it’s not OK 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.”
“So why would you perform probably the most performed and referenced play about the relationship between the sexes without including women?”
To counter the Pop-Up Globe approach, Ugly Shakespeare is set to announce the line-up for its 2019 school tour – Taming of the Shrew with an all-female cast, as well as a mixed production of Hamlet.
“As well as providing an accessible introduction to these particularly plays, hopefully this will give school students the opportunity to debate the idea of single sex theatre troops,” said Richard. “It will be interesting to see whether they really think Shakespeare would have limited his performances to men-only if society he lived in was not bound by such church driven, hierarchical, misogynist, and classist regulations.”
The 24th National Tour of Ugly Shakespeare tours the South island in February/March and the North in April-June next year. The unique 50-minute shows incorporate Shakespeare's text with contemporary references, music and popular culture, condensed into fast-paced hilarious productions. Bookings for schools open in August and early interest can be registered at
“We are excited to pop up around the country performing our own potted Shakespeare as we have done since 1996 and to continue reaching over 35000 students in their environment, on their terms,” Richard says.
“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 Green

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