Serial protester and bad hat enthusiast Mark Rylance has sworn to boycott the Royal Shakespeare Company after it took sponsor money from BP.
Rylance, who stars in the Disney adaptation of The BFG, compared the energy company to “someone selling… knives to the young people” and said he would avoid appearing in anything connected to them.
He was reacting to BP’s decision to sponsor the RSC, the British theatrical organisation which produces dozens of high-profile renditions of The Bard’s works every year.
Rylance publicly ditched the RSC in an interview with BBC Radio 4 over the weekend.
The actor has form for public protest. In recent years he has joined a group called “Artists Against TTIP” and has also appeared at rallies by the deeply dubious Stop the War Coalition, who are oddly reluctant to criticise wars involving Russia:
Most recently, Rylance complained that BP was acting unethically by doing too little to combat climate change, and that the RSC was being used to “whitewash” its activities.
He said: “It’s not philanthropic of BP, it is a calculated advertising ploy to present themselves as a respectable, society-loving organisation, which I don’t believe they are.
He continued: “We do have ethics; everyone does. If there was someone around here selling revolvers in my neighbourhood or knives to the young people and they said: ‘Oh, I’ve made some extra money, I’d like to sponsor your theatrical show’, I’d say: ‘No, thank you very much.'”
The public spat with the RSC is symbolic for Rylance, who got his first break as a Shakespearean with the company, aged just 22.
He is now happy to criticise the organization and argue for it to sacrifice revenue which would extend the same chances he had to other young actors.
A spokesman for the RSC said that Rylance is apparently alone in his efforts to blackball the company – and in any case had not performed with them for “many, many years”.
BP sponsorship is widespread in the arts world, and has been given to organisations including the Royal Opera House, National Portrait Gallery and British Museum.
By coincidence, Rylance felt compelled to intervene over BP, thrusting himself back into the headlines, three weeks before his latest show opens in London.
Rylance is also happy to work for the BBC. Yet scores of people in Britain who do not pay the compulsory BBC tax known as the TV licence fee are sent to prison each year.
How ethical is that?