OSCAR-winning actor Mark Rylance says he will not be treading the boards in Stratford while the RSC is sponsored by BP.
Earlier in the year the star of stage and screen was one of 214 well-known names who signed an open letter demanding cancellation of the energy giant’s five-year arts sponsorship deal which will see it invest £7.5million in the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Mr Rylance, former artistic director at the Globe Theatre in London and one of Britain’s most respected stage actors, said: “It’s not philanthropic of BP, it’s a calculated advertising ploy to present themselves as a respectable, society loving organisation which I don’t think they are.
“We do have ethics – everyone does. I think if there was someone around here selling revolvers in my neighbourhood or selling knives to young people to make some extra money who said ‘I’d like to sponsor your theatrical show’ I would say ‘no thank you’.”
The 56 year-old, who starred in the hit BBC drama Wolf Hall and who won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in Bridge of Spies, added he would “probably not” accept a job offer with the RSC while the current BP funding deal was in place.
He said it was a matter for anyone choosing to attend a performance supported by the BP funding it was a case of making “the decision consciously.
The sponsorship has supported ‘The RSC Key’ discount ticket scheme for 16 to 25 year-olds.
The RSC have not been strangers to protests about their continued sponsorship from BP.
In 2012 theatrical protest group BP or not BP? invaded the RST stage repeatedly to highlight their campaign.
Responding to Mr Rylance’s comments, RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “Corporate sponsorship is an important part of our diverse funding mix. Alongside ticket sales, public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity, it helps us deliver our artistic programme and reach the widest possible audience.
“Mark Rylance last worked for the Company in 1989 when he played Hamlet and Romeo, and we respect any individual’s right to share their views.
“The BP sponsorship of the RSC supports our £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds. This sponsorship gives many young people the chance to see our work.
“It is a scheme that is highly valued by audiences and helps to establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre.”