Dr Miles Gregory took a Shakespearean dream inspired by his daughter and turned it into a modern-day New Zealand success story.
The Auckland artistic director is the founder and visionary behind the world’s first Pop-up Globe theatre, recreating a full-scale working replica of 1614 London’s famous venue. Since it opened in 2016, more than 450,000 people have seen his productions over four memorable seasons.
What drove his venture beyond commercial success - inspiring and leading a succession of casts and changing the landscape of theatre in this country - were equal measures of authenticity and integrity.
Those qualities led him to painstakingly research Shakespeare’s second Globe theatre, delving into history to get the required attention to detail. They enabled him to recruit and assemble a team of people to see his vision through, working with business partner and old school mate Tobias Grant, and consisting of an army of actors, directors, scaffolders, artists, caterers, ushers and designers. And personal authenticity and integrity helped him stay true to his dream right through the 15 months it took to bring it to reality, from the most innocent of beginnings.
“I was reading Nancy, my daughter, a bedtime story,” Gregory explains. “It was a picture pop-up book and one of the pop-ups was the Globe theatre. Nancy asked whether we could go there. I said, ‘we can’t. The nearest Globe replica is a long way away...’ Then I stopped and thought.... a Pop-up Globe... And now here we are!”
Gregory’s leadership is described as empowering, promoting and earning trust and communicating clearly. He celebrates achievement and continually tries to raise the bar, lifting his own performance as a way to bring others with him.
His own love affair with the world’s most famous playwright began as a 14-year-old at Auckland’s King’s College, editing a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
The only child of Auckland fashion designer Trish Gregory and her husband, James, Gregory excelled in English at secondary school, then at 17 left for England, where he studied history at Durham University.
He went on to make his London debut as a theatre director at the age of 23, directing Hamlet and Twelfth Night at the Westminster Theatre in London’s West End, collecting a Master of Fine Arts in Staging Shakespeare from Exeter University, and a PhD in Shakespeare in Performance from Bristol University before, enjoying stints as an artistic director, producer and chief executive at various festivals, touring companies and theatres, along the way directing more than 20 professional productions, mainly of Shakespeare, in the United Kingdom.
“I was going to be a lawyer, but I fell in with the wrong crowd and they all liked theatre,” he quips.
When he and wife Barbara returned to New Zealand in 2012 with their children, he set himself up as a lecturer and consultant in the arts.
When his initial team started their Globe project, they worked from a small studio off Queen street with nothing but running water and a few trestle tables. The team of two then turned into a team of nearly 50 within two months, with the first Pop-up Globe opening in Auckland’s CBD in February 2016, just in time for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Two years on and Pop-up Globe is now one of the biggest and most successful theatrical ventures in Australasia, employing hundreds of actors and support staff across its seasons in New Zealand and abroad.
The design integrity of the Pop-up Globe, based closely on research conducted by Sydney University, enables them to present Shakespeare as it was intended, with the audience fully immersed in the Jacobean-period experience.
“My favourite moments happen after every show. It’s the noise from the audience after the actors leave the stage and the applause dies down: a loud, excited buzz of people who are talking nineteen to the dozen to their friends about what they’ve seen. And that buzz is probably the greatest tonic you can have running a theatre because it’s the sound of people who’ve had a great time.
“There’s a line in Twelfth Night that the character Feste sings in the epilogue to the play, where he says, "we’ll strive to please you every day". And that is what we do. We strive to please our audience every day