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Mark Rylance: ‘I won’t work for the RSC while it deals with BP’

Mark Rylance. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock Mark Rylance. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
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Mark Rylance has said he will not work for the Royal Shakespeare Company again while it is still sponsored by BP.

The renowned actor, an associate artist at the RSC, has been an outspoken opponent of the oil giant’s sponsorship of arts organisations.

In response, the RSC said Rylance had not performed for the company in almost 30 years, and that he had a right to express his view.

Rylance was one of 217 figures across the worlds of culture and science to sign a letter condemning companies, including the RSC and the Royal Opera House, for continuing to accept funding from BP.

He was explaining his stance to the BBC earlier this week when he was asked whether he would now perform for the RSC, given the BP sponsorship it receives. He responded: “No, probably not.”

The actor explained: “It’s not philanthropic of BP, it’s a calculated advertising ploy to represent themselves as a respectable, society-loving organisation, which I don’t believe they are.”

He claimed actors who perform with the RSC were “being used to whitewash and protect” BP.

Rylance also said artists going up for jobs at the RSC should “be conscious of what [they’re] doing and make a decision consciously”.

“We do have ethics, everyone does. I think if there was someone around here selling revolvers in my neighbourhood or knives to the young people and they said, ‘I’ve made some extra money, I’d like to sponsor your theatrical show’, I’d say ‘No, thank you very much’,” he said.

Responding to Rylance’s boycott, RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “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.”

Her statement highlighted that BP’s sponsorship supported the theatre’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds, and claimed sponsorship was “an important part of our diverse funding mix”.

“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,” she said.

It is not the first time Rylance has criticised the RSC. Last year he claimed that the company and the National Theatre were charging “way too much” for tickets.

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