A top New Zealand actor has slammed the Pop-up Globe's "tone deaf" and "gimmicky" use of the #MeToo movement to justify an all-male Shakespeare cast as the sexism row deepens.
The theatre company's founder artistic director Dr Miles Gregory was forced to issue a public apology after using the powerful #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, along with a reference to disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, to promote Auckland shows in November of The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III to be performed by an all-male cast.
Performers, theatre-makers and playwrights were outraged at the so-called feminist endeavour.
It sparked boycott calls and prompted actress Penny Ashton to pen a furious Spinoff column, while one theatre group, Ugly Shakespeare Company, responded by announcing an all-female cast for The Taming of the Shrew and a mixed production of Hamlet for its 2019 schools tour.
Now, actor Edwin Wright, who played Peter Plumley-Walker in last weekend's Sunday Theatre doco-drama Mistress, Mercy, has criticised the move as "tone deaf".
He said the "hijacking" of the sexual harassment campaigns, coupled with continued gender disparity in casting, was "especially galling".
"I don't want to be cynical and think it was purely done as a marketing ploy to try and develop controversy - I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and just think it was a bit thoughtless," Wright told Herald on Sunday.
"It's gimmicky, for want of a better word, and that's the last thing that should happen to a movement like #MeToo. As soon as it becomes commodified, it loses, everyone loses, and that is a dangerous precedent to set."
Wright said he's always had reservations about the Pop-up Globe, including concerns around casting disparity, but thought it had made positive progress recently.
He says he supports the innovative theatre, wants it to succeed, and cautioned the censoring of artistic directors.
But he said the timing was "awful", and suggested an all-female cast, or gender-reversed rendition, as being more appropriate.
"It's not as easy as just going, 'I'm an artist, I should be able to create what I want'. You've got to consider your community and the larger socio-political landscape, and I feel that they misjudged that significantly," Wright said.
"The Pop-up Globe is a fantastic addition to the cultural landscape, it's important, it's very valuable. I have a lot of friends involved in it, and I want to see them work.
"I want to see them make the most of their opportunities, and for some of them it's the only chance in their lives they'll get to play these roles in that space."
He didn't support a boycott, saying it shouldn't be left for actors to fall on their swords for someone else's mistakes, but he would never work for the Pop-up Globe until it resolved its gender issues.
Gregory said it had become "very clear" that the company's announcement had caused offence 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," he said.