Friday, 28 April 2017


Tonight, the performance of Antony and Cleopatra in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre had an unexpected warm-up act, when two performers took the stage without permission a few minutes before the play was due to start. The first performer pretended to be a spokesperson for the RSC’s sponsor BP, but his cringeworthy PR-speak was suddenly interrupted by a furious William Shakespeare. The full script can be found below.
Shakespeare invades wide shot

The rebel actors – from the activist theatre troupe “BP or not BP?” – were there to highlight the hypocrisy of BP sponsoring the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for young people, while the company is destroying those young people’s futures. BP is one of the world’s most polluting companies, actively lobbying to block climate action and continue extracting fossil fuels way beyond levels that are safe for the climate. The RSC receives less than 0.5% of its annual income from BP, and last year made a £4.6 million surplus.
The group had originally attempted this disobedient performance on press night in March, but were prevented by RSC staff. This time, however, the performers managed to reach the stage, complete the performance, and walk away freely.
BP’s association with a play set in Egypt is of particular concern to the activists, who point to BP’s recent $12bn dollar gas extraction deal with Egypt’s brutal Sisi regime. Protests in Idku in the Nile Delta in 2011-2012 pushed BP to freeze construction of a gas terminal for over a year, but under the current regime of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, opposition has been quashed with the introduction of a repressive anti-protest law and BP’s plans have been steamrolled through.
The actor-vists purposefully chose not to interrupt the performance itself, out of respect for RSC actors and staff who have been given no say over the BP sponsorship, and for the audience, whom they thanked at the end of their performance and encouraged to enjoy Iqbal Khan’s extraordinary production.
Phoebe Demeger, 24, who played Shakespeare in the performance and whose father was an actor with the RSC for six years, is a member of the £5 ticket scheme that is sponsored by BP. She said: “As a lifelong lover of Shakespeare and a member of the RSC Key scheme for 16-25 year olds, I am deeply saddened that young people’s access to great theatre must be tainted by an oil company that directly profits from compromising our collective future. For this reason, and the ever-worsening crisis of climate change, we staged this carnivalesque interruption that I hope Shakespeare would be proud of.”
The RSC’s sponsorship by BP is already under fire from leading figures in the theatre world. Oscar-winning actor and RSC Associate Artist Sir Mark Rylance has vowed not to work with the company until it drops BP. Over 200 cultural figures, scientists, academics, politicians, climate campaigners and representatives of communities affected by BP’s activities all signed a letter to the Times condemning the new 5-year sponsorship deal when it was announced last July.
This is the seventh time BP or not BP? has invaded the stage at an RSC performance, with a Shakespeare-inspired intervention about BP. The first six performances took place in 2012, when the RSC was displaying BP logos prominently on its plays as part of the BP-sponsored World Shakespeare Festival. Since then, the RSC’s BP partnership has been much more low profile, until the new 5-year deal was signed last year. Campaigners now intend to ramp up the pressure on the theatre company to cancel the new five-year deal before it comes into force in 2018.
Tonight’s stage invasion began with children’s author Darragh Martin giving an eerily convincing performance as Brad Patterson, Art Engagement Liaison for BP, proudly displaying the full-page BP advert in the back of tonight’s programme. After a smarmy attempt to sing BP’s praises and impress the young people in the audience (using words and phrases taken from BP’s real-life PR materials), he claimed ‘I like to think that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be an oil man: he certainly knows his way around a geopolitical conflict!’. At this point, William Shakespeare himself (played by Phoebe Demeger) leapt onto the stage, firing Elizabethan insults and declaring “I should rather pluck my plays from this earth / Than have oil spill across my legacy”. The two then verbally sparred in iambic pentameter until Shakespeare concludes: ‘Vile you are: Shakespeare will be no dodo! Avaunt! Get off my stage! Out damn logo!’ and ripped the BP logo from the theatre programme, ending the performance. The audience laughed and applauded.
Phoebe then stepped out of character to reveal that she is a member of the BP-sponsored £5 ticket scheme and explained that the impacts of climate change are so severe that she felt compelled to act. She encouraged members of the audience who feel the same to rip the BP logo from their programmes and hand it in to RSC staff at the end of the performance.
The performers then walked out of the theatre, and will return to talk to the audience and hand out flyers during the interval.
Darragh Martin, who studied the RSC as part of his PhD and played Brad Patterson tonight, said: “The Royal Shakespeare Company inspired me to study Shakespeare. I loved that their productions were fiercely political and that they cared about making Shakespeare relevant to wide audiences. So it’s particularly crushing for me to see the RSC accept BP’s sponsorship. The RSC wants to bring Shakespeare to an international audience, but instead its partner BP is bringing climate chaos to the world, especially the Global South. It’s not worth betraying your political values for less than 0.5% of your annual income.”
Script of the performance
Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!!
My name is Brad Patterson, Arts Engagement Liaison at BP, and I have the unenviable task of being the warm-up band for Shakespeare: somebody’s got to make the guy sound good!! Seriously, though, I want to take a couple of minutes of your time to share the news about the exciting initiative that BP and the Royal Shakespeare Company are pioneering. Giving is central to the fabric of BP’s brand identity and so we are thrilled to sponsor 5 pounds tickets for 16-25 year olds here at the Oil Shak – oops, I mean the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Are there any 16-25 year olds in the audience? Heyyyy!! [dabs] BP are committed to bringing the best of the UK’s culture to a younger audience. We hope this can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between BP and the next generation of artists, dreamers, and any budding oil men – or women! – in tonight. I like to think that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be an oil man: he certainly knows his way around a geopolitical conflict!
Begone, you bit-witted popinjay!
Off my stage, blather-pomp!
Shakespeare, what ho!
Your wrangling words assault my tender ears.
I should rather pluck my plays from this earth
Than have oil spill across my legacy.
Oh dear, I fear you’re here to sermonize
To wax and worry about the ocean’s rise.

Your brave warm world sends the Av’n o’er its banks.
Shall I see some flapping swan squawk my greatness
To an audience of fish? Oh no!
Rather strip oil sponsors from this stage
Than fossil fool away our salad days.
Will, play nice. Remember in your heyday
Your art depended on a patron’s payday.
You give us gold yet our only profit
Is we have coins to charm the ferryman.
I see the game. You’re angling for more dough
Half a per cent more if it must be so!
Your business plan scours and scalds our earth
You emblacken our seas, unroot gentle trees,
Untomorrow our days, and you would
Have me stoop to catch the change you toss?
Young friends, please ignore these negative vibes
‘Tis custom on a stage to trade some jibes!

Branded puspool, you insult these fair youths
Who desiring passage on arts’ grand ship
Must hoist the flag of a deceptive patron
False friend to bards and audiences alike
BP’s green-tinged mask conceals a face most foul.

I bring you baubles yet you barter with bile
BP’s logo is green, we are not so vile!
Vile you are: Shakespeare will be no dodo!
Avaunt! Get off my stage! Out damn logo!

Friday, 11 March 2016


Today oil company BP announced its 26 year sponsorship of UK art gallery Tate would end at the start of 2017.

Art collective Liberate Tate, alongside thousands of artists, members and gallery-goers, had called on Tate to end the contract on ethical grounds. This announcement comes close to the end of Tate and BP’s current five-year deal, and the group had been pushing Tate not to sign another similar contract.

Yasmin De Silva:
“We’re thrilled with the news Tate is rid of BP. About thirty years ago, the tide turned on tobacco sponsorship, and now the same thing is happening to the oil industry. Of course Tate won’t rub it in BP’s face by acknowledging this decision is the result of the increasing public concern about climate change and the huge number of artists, members and gallery-goers speaking out about against the controversial deal.”

She continued:

“BP is a company whose business model depends on trashing the climate, and it shouldn’t receive credibility by being associated with our most-cherished cultural institutions. April will see the sixth anniversary of the start of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, we think of all the people around the world who have suffered the impacts of BP’s operations and can now know that Tate will no longer wipe its name clean. It’s time for other institutions sponsored by BP, Shell and other oil companies – like National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and British Museum – to follow Tate’s lead and end their deals.”

Liberate Tate is an art collective that formed in 2010 to ‘free Tate from BP’. The group has made numerous performance interventions inside Tate galleries, including covering a naked man in an oil-like substance (Human Cost, 2011), a hundred people assembling a 16.5 metre-long wind turbine blade (The Gift, 2012), fifty people counting aloud the increases in carbon dioxide through chronologically ordered gallery spaces (Parts Per Million, 2013), transcribing texts on art and climate change across a massive area of the gallery floor overnight (Time Piece, 2015), and about fifty people receiving tattoos showing carbon dioxide levels (Birthmark, 2015). For more information on performances visit


Activists occupied the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall overnight on Saturday June13 2015 in protest at the gallery’s sponsorship by oil company BP. The 75 demonstrators from the Liberate Tate group, dressed in black with veils covering their faces, spent 25 hours scrawling words of warning about climate change in charcoal on the sloping floor of the hall. They refused to leave the building when it closed and were eventually allowed to stay overnight. They left at lunchtime on Sunday

Monday, 23 April 2012


World Shakespeare festival

Oiling the wheels of the Shakespeare festival, Sunday 22 April 2012 21.00 BST

Today, 23 April, is Shakespeare's birthday and marks the launch of the World Shakespeare festival (Review, 21 April). Yet what should be an unabashed celebration of Shakespeare's continued relevance to our world has been sullied by the fact that the festival is sponsored by BP. While the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill continues to devastate ecosystems and communities, and the highly polluting extraction of tar sands oil brings us rapidly closer to the point of no return from climate change, we feel that BP has no place in arts sponsorship.

We, as individuals involved in theatre and the arts, are deeply concerned that the RSC – like other much-cherished cultural institutions – is allowing itself to be used by BP to obscure the destructive reality of its activities. We would like to see an end to oil sponsorship of the arts and are committed to finding more responsible ways to finance this country's cultural life, for our own and future generations.
Mark Rylance Actor, writer and playwright
Moira Buffini Playwright
Van Badham Playwright
Jo Tyabji Director and actor
Rod Dixon Red Ladder Theatre Company
James Bolam Actor
Sue Jameson Actor
Lisa Wesley Artist and theatre-maker
Arabella Lawson Actor
Harry Giles Environment officer, Festivals Edinburgh
Professor Stephen Bottoms Chair of drama and theatre studies and director of the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds
Andy Field Co-director, Forest Fringe
Daniel Balla Producer, Gaia Theatre Collective; director, Coexists Events Space
Tom Worth Producer of the Globe's Hamlet on Tour documentary
Lucy Jameson Gaia Theatre
Simon Lys Gaia Theatre
Leo-Marcus Wan Actor
Tim Jeeves Artist and writer
Phil Maxwell Director
Hazuan Hasheem Director
Sue Palmer Contemporary performance maker and artist
Stephen Duncombe Associate Professor, New York University, Gallatin School of Media, Culture & Communications, Center For Artistic Activism
Kenny Young Songwriter, musician, founder of Artists Project Earth
Ana Betancour Professor, architect, artist
John Volynchook Photographer
Leila Galloway Artist and senior lecturer
Dr Wallace Heim Academic and former set designer
Tracey Dunn Film-maker and community tv broadcaster


BP or not BP? That is the question
If oil be the fuel for us, drill on
All that glisters is not gold
Action is eloquence

BP or not BP
BP or not BP? That is the question

At a time when the world should fear much more the heat of the sun and the furious winter’s rages, BP is conspiring to distract us from the naked truth of climate change, and by pursuing a future powered by more and more extreme fossil fuels, like tar sands, deepwater drilling and Arctic exploitation, with its daring folly burn the world.
Something is rotten in the state of Stratford

The Royal Shakespeare Company have chosen to put BP’s money in their purse. Yet he’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf. BP is doing everything in its power to let not the public see its deep and dark desires – fossil fuel expansion and ecological devastation. BP is the harlot’s cheek, beautied with sponsoring art. It is the greenwash monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on, and the RSC have made themselves complicit in its crimes. If this were play’d upon a stage now, we could condemn it as an improbable fiction!
Enough! No more!

Times are tough. Ay, there’s the rub. But all that glisters is not gold. And whilst comparisons are odorous, we do well remember the dropping of tobacco companies as sponsors by a host of cultural institutions. The arts continued, and so shall the RSC, freed from the grasp of this smiling damned villain. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!
We believe that action is eloquence

We say to the RSC: to thine own self be true. Be nothing if not critical and forgo your damaging relationship with BP.