ACTOR Sir Mark Rylance has severed ties with the RSC due to its sponsorship by BP.
The Academy Award winner was an associate artist at the RSC for some 30 years, but recently handed in his resignation saying he did not wish to be associated with the oil giant.
BP – which has worked with the RSC since 2012 – sponsors discount tickets for young people.
The Bridge of Spies star said he was was quitting to “lend strength” to progressive voices in the RSC.
He said: “I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn. Nor, I believe, would William Shakespeare.”
BP helps to fund £5 tickets for 16 to 25-year-olds – something the actor previously backed a campaign against alongside fellow RSC associate artist Jasper Britton.
He added: “The RSC could turn this situation on its head and give young people much more value than a cheap £5 ticket. They could give them the support of Shakespeare in their stand against our addiction to energy dealers who would willingly destroy us for a quick quid.
“I am resigning to lend strength to the voices within the RSC who want to be progressive, and to encourage my fellow associates to express themselves too. The children know the truth – in the face of addiction, tough love is the only path. It’s time for an artistic intervention.”
The RSC said it was sad to see the actor – who has starred in the likes of Hamlet and Twelfth Night – leave the company.
Artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “We are saddened Mark Rylance has decided he can no longer be one of our associate artists, but we respect his decision. We thank him for his long association with the company.
“No sponsor influences or drives our artistic decision making and we are committed to exploring contemporary issues and ideas in all our work. We have a clear donation and sponsorship acceptance policy and consider potential offers of support individually. We recognise the importance of a robust and engaged debate in taking these decisions, especially in the light of the acknowledged environment and climate emergency.
“BP’s sponsorship gives many young people the chance to see our work, and the scheme is highly valued by our audiences. It’s one of the many ways that help us to establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre.”