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With its links to BP, I can’t stay in the Royal Shakespeare Company

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21.06.2019

As a teenager, disenchanted with religion, I turned to Shakespeare for ethical guidance. I was inspired by the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It represented the ultimate company of conscious artists, speaking and playing Shakespeare with humour and insight.

In my 20s I was fortunate to join the company, play Hamlet and Romeo, and become an associate artist. I have been delighted ever since to be connected with thousands of artists and audiences who have made the RSC what it is. And yet today I feel I must dissociate myself from the RSC, not because it is any less of a theatre company, but because of the company it keeps.

In 2012, when the RSC first partnered with BP, I joined a number of others in expressing concern that the RSC was “allowing itself to be used by BP to obscure the destructive reality of its activities”. We felt BP was buying the impression that it, too, had the consciousness of Shakespeare and the RSC artists. At the same time, the activist theatre group BP or not BP? began a series of Shakespearean stage invasions in protest at the sponsor.

In the wake of that criticism, the RSC desisted in putting BP logos on more plays. However, the following year, BP instead started sponsoring the £5 ticket scheme for 16- to 25-year-olds, and in 2016 the RSC signed a contract for the partnership to continue until 2022.

The arts sponsorship business is tricky. I would love nothing more than increased support for the imaginative arts, athletics and sciences of Britain. So I met with the environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, to find out if my suspicions about BP were wrong. “I worked closely........

© The Guardian