Rylance quits RSC over BP sponsorship

Oscar winner Sir Mark Rylance has resigned as an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company over the company’s BP sponsorship.

He announced his decision in The Guardian newspaper. “I feel I must resign as I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn. Nor do I believe would William Shakespeare” he said. “I make this resignation to lend strength to the voices within the RSC who want to be progressive, and to encourage my fellow associate artists to express themselves too".

The RSC is the latest major arts organisation to come under pressure for their association with the oil company, after the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.

Along with other support for the RSC, BP sponsors subsidises £5 tickets for young people at the RSC.

The sponsorship “means the RSC will continue pushing BP’s brand on to young people who have – in huge numbers through the ongoing school strikes – told adults they need to step up their response to the climate crisis now” Rylance said. “Surely the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?”

Greg Doran, the RSC’s artistic director, and executive director Catherine Mallyon, said in a statement that they were saddened by Rylance’s decision: “We recognise the importance of a robust and engaged debate in taking these decisions, especially in the light of the acknowledged environment and climate emergency” they said. “It’s one of the many ways that help us to establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre and applies to all of our productions whether in Stratford, London or on tour around the UK.”

BP declined to comment but said it was proud of its sponsorship which provided about 10,000 cheap tickets for young people each year.


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