Parting is such sweet sorrow…
It's one of Shakespeare's most famous lines and one New Zealand fans of Pop-up Globe are now hearing. After 1206 performances and New Zealand ticket sales of 350,000, the pop-up theatre - a replica made of scaffolding of Shakespeare's second Globe theatre – has decided to pop off.
It will now travel to some of the world's biggest cities but, first, there will be a farewell summer season in Auckland. This begins on December 13 with two shows, a new version of Romeo and Juliet and the reprisal of its most popular production, the Pasifika themed Much Ado About Nothing directed by Miriama McDowell.
Founder and artistic director Dr Miles Gregory, who will direct Romeo and Juliet, says it's a bittersweet moment but the Pop-up Globe team always aimed to take the theatre and its productions to the great cities of the world.
"We always knew we would 'pop down' – I mean, there's a clue in the name…"
While Gregory won't reveal its international plans, a partnership with global entertainment giant Live Nation means the company is now more able to travel far and wide. However, Pop-up Globe's production base will remain in Auckland where shows will be cast, rehearsed and designed before being exported.
"Auckland has been incredibly generous to Pop-up Globe with people coming from all over to see our productions," says Gregory. "I am so very proud that Auckland has supported us so well and, in turn, we have shown that Auckland is a great supporter of arts and culture."
A father of four young children, Gregory got the idea for the theatre while reading a bedtime story to his daughter, Nancy, when she was just two years old. In 2016, when its opening was first announced, he told the Herald: "We were reading a pop-up book and one of the pop-ups was Shakespeare's Globe theatre. She said: 'Daddy, can we go out to that?' I said: 'Well, actually, we can't.' So, I thought afterwards, 'wouldn't it be great to bring the theatre here?'"
It was originally planned as a one-off event to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016. Gregory acknowledges he and business partner Tobias Grant had numerous moments when they feared the whole project would collapse, right up until opening night in the carpark outside the Basement Theatre.
But, without any government funding, it proved to be a smash-hit. Aucklanders flocked to see its shows; its first season was repeatedly extended, a new location found at Ellerslie Raceway and plans for subsequent seasons actioned. It means in just four years, Pop-up Globe will have had five summer seasons in Auckland, winter performances and a six-city tour around New Zealand as well as taking shows across the ditch to Sydney and Melbourne. It will be in Perth from October.
"There have been so many highlights; it's been an absolutely incredible journey but I think working with such extraordinarily creative and talented New Zealanders would be the ultimate highlight for me," says Gregory.
He acknowledges it hasn't always gone smoothly. The company faced a backlash last year when it announced plans to continue with male-only casts in its core productions and used references to #metoo in its marketing. It led to a u-turn and a commitment to a 50:50 gender balance on stage during any one season.
"Everything that has happened has been a chance to learn and grow as a company and, because what we were doing hadn't been done before, we have had a steep learning curve across so many fronts, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I hope we have been able to show young New Zealanders, who have big dreams they want to turn into reality, it's entirely possible to achieve what you want and you should never let people stop you."
Tickets for Pop-up Globe's finale season are now on sale with Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing planning until March 1, 2020.
Pop-up Globe in numbers:
•650,000+ attendances at Pop-up Globe and counting at its Auckland, Australian and NZ touring shows.
•212 individual acting jobs created filled by 125 different actors.
•17 brand new productions created in-house, and host to 13 visiting productions/events.
•The most popular productions, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream, have both been performed 130 times each in NZ and Australia.
•1000+ individual costume pieces have been created.
•New Zealand event awards: Best Regional event 2016 & 2017.
•Winner of 8 Sydney theatre awards (28 Nominations).