After accusations of sexism, Pop-up Globe returns to Auckland this year with a new predominantly female company of actors.

The Pembroke Company, named for William Shakespeare's patron William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, includes 11 women and two men who will star in a gender-reversed Julius Caesar. Along with A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Comedy of Errors and Macbeth, it will be part of a Summer of Shakespeare from December - March at Ellerslie Racecourse.

The new company joins the all-male King's Company and the mixed gender Queen's Company.

Pop-up Globe cofounder and artistic director Dr Miles Gregory says forming a mainly female company isn't because of claims that the theatre company is sexist for using an all-male cast - along with a mixed one - in its previous two seasons.

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Instead, Gregory says it's about resourcing and, thanks to phenomenal support for Pop-up Globe, being able to expand its productions.

"Because of our success, we can make a wider variety of productions and reverse gender Shakespeare is one of the most interesting kinds of things to make because it's an intelligent way of unpicking the text and bringing new insights to it," he says.

"But our artistic output is not driven by anything other than the desire to make great art and as we have more resources, we will always look at what we can make that is interesting rather than fashionable."

Pop-up Globe didn't shy away from the issue, hosting a panel discussion All-male Shakespeare: Historically Accurate or Sexist.

Pop-up Globe in Melbourne.
Pop-up Globe in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the theatre company has successfully launched a season in Melbourne. The company's first offshore venture reprises As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello and Henry V from its sold-out second Auckland season.

In a five-star review, Australia's classical music and arts magazine Limelight declared As You Like It was "authentic Shakespeare at its joyous, interactive best in a recreation of the Globe" while Australian Stage said it was "the best night of theatre ever..."

Gregory says going offshore has only happened because of the extraordinary support shown by NZ audiences, who ensured its first two Auckland seasons sold out and extended.

The theatre, the world's first full-scale working replica of Shakespeare's second Globe in London, first popped up in Auckland in 2016 but moved to the Ellerslie Racecourse this year. As well as new shows, Pop-up Globe promises a third season with "better special effects, more laughter, more battles and blood; more elaborate sets and costumes..."

A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the all-male King's Company and directed by Gregory, will open the summer 2017 season and will include 10 special evening performances in the lead-up to Christmas.

Julius Caesar opens on January 11 to be followed, the next day, by The Merchant of Venice. Dates are still to be announced for Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors, both of which will be performed by the mixed gender Queen's Company. Directors are still to be named for these shows.

Additional features in and around the theatre will include:

•A new garden setting of pergolas, plantings, lights, a new bar and areas to wander and sit in.
•New Jacobean-style scenic stage front inspired by research and constructed by Pop-up Globe's in-house team of artisan set makers.
•A dedicated season of school matinees in February and March.
•$10 tickets for groundings available for all shows.