28th June 2012

Last night, members of the “Reclaim Shakespeare Company” jumped on stage and performed an anti-BP “guerilla Shakespeare” skit in front of a theatre audience that included many BP employees

For more information, interviews, photographs and film footage contact Jess Worth on: info@bp-or-not-bp.org or 07807 095669. Photographs are also available from David Hoffman on: david@hoffmanphotos.com. For information on copyright and credits, see [1].

Last night (27th June 2012), to mark one month before the Olympics opening ceremony, a group of merry players known as the “Reclaim Shakespeare Company” took unexpectedly to the stage at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden. Five minutes before a BP-sponsored Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) performance of The Comedy of Errors was due to begin, the actors performed a short Shakespeare-inspired piece. They challenged the RSC and the London Olympics over their decision to accept sponsorship from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster [2] and the company’s decision to start extracting highly polluting and destructive tar sands oil in Canada [3].

The surprise performance coincided with a theatre outing for BP employees, which meant that a significant portion of the audience was made up of BP staff, making the pop-up protest especially embarrassing for the RSC.

This was the third such intervention by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, the first two having taken place on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage in Stratford-upon-Avon.[4] It came a week after Mark Rylance, one of the UK’s leading actors, who is performing in the Olympic opening ceremony, expressed his concerns about BP’s sponsorship of the Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad (of which the World Shakespeare Festival is part) on Radio 4’s Today Programme.[5]

The three actor-vists performed a three-minute sketch inspired by The Comedy of Errors, in which the narrator first meets a ‘fine and worthy’ patron of the arts, and then meets a ‘noxious, treach’rous, belching, oily rogue’ – who turn out to both be the same character, BP (sporting an impressive BP logo as a ruff). On discovering this, BP is accused of ‘taking fair nature as his green-tinged guise’ whilst ‘with daring folly [he] burns the world.’ The performance culminated with a call to action: ‘Enough! No more! / Now is the summer of our discontent. / Out, damn logo!’, with the narrator ripping the BP logo from her theatre programme. The audience were then encouraged to do the same. The full script can be seen below.[6]

Although a member of staff got up on stage near the start to ask them to stop, the performers reassured him and continued to the end. The performance was greeted with laughter and applause by the audience. After the performance, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company – Jonathan Slinger – addressed the audience, saying that the RSC has a policy of “allowing these peaceful protests to go ahead”.

BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival and the “What country friends is this?” trilogy of plays by the RSC [7] is part of a massive sponsorship deal for the Olympics, which also includes being Oil & Gas Partner and Sustainability Partner to the Games themselves.[8] This sponsorship has already triggered a wave of criticism, including a hijacking of the Olympics website that persuaded some media outlets that BP had been dropped as Sustainability Partner [9], the launch of the “Greenwash Gold” awards for worst Olympics sponsor, which offer the public the choice to vote for BP, Dow Chemical and Rio Tinto [10], and an Early Day Motion in Parliament, which is being signed by MPs.[11]

Jess Worth, who took part in the guerilla Shakespeare performance, said: “The RSC 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.”

Danny Chivers, another of the players, said “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!”

BP as gentle patron of the arts by David Hoffman

Out damn logo!! by David Hoffman

BP the monstrous tar-drenched knave by David Hoffman

Notes to Editors

[1] Attached photos are subject to the following: These photographs are copyright but may be reproduced with credit “David Hoffman” without specific permission or payment ONLY IN the context of the work of the Reclaim Shakespeare Company AND only until the end of 2012. Moral rights asserted under Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988.

[2] On April 20th, 2010, an explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused a rapid stream of crude oil to begin gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. It flowed unabated for the next three months, releasing just under 200 million gallons into the ocean – the largest marine oil accident in US history. The effects of the disaster continue to devastate coastal ecosystems, local livelihoods and residents’ health along the Gulf Coast. See http://gizmodo.com/5903021/bp-oil-spill-aftermath-eyeless-shrimp-clawless-crabs-and-fish-with-oozing-sores

[3] In December 2010, BP announced it was going ahead with a £1.6 billion investment in its first tar sands extraction project in Canada. Tar sands are one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel on earth, and trample on the rights of local Indigenous people. They are a kind of oily deposit that take huge amounts of energy and water to extract and refine into usable oil. This extraction causes huge damage to the local environment, and has serious effects on the health of local people and workers. BP is now making major investments in this risky, capital-intensive, highly-polluting unconventional oil. See http://www.no-tar-sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands/ and http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html

[4] For more information, including films of the first two performances see www.bp-or-not-bp.org You can also find the campaign on Facebook: ‘BP or not BP?’ and Twitter: @ReclaimOurBard

[5] Mark Rylance first spoke out on this subject as a signatory to a letter published in the Guardian in April. ‘Oiling the wheels of the Shakespeare festival’, Guardian letters page, 23rd April,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/apr/22/oiling-wheels-shakespeare-festival . Last Wednesday (20th June) he expressed his concerns again on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme. See ‘Actor Mark Rylance nearly pulled out of opening ceremony in protest at sponsors’, in the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9344123/London-2012-Olympics-actor-Mark-Rylance-nearly-pulled-out-of-opening-ceremony-in-protest-at-sponsors.html

[6] The full script can be found at the end of these notes.

[7] The plays are The Tempest, Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors. These plays ran first at Stratford-upon-Avon, are currently at the Roundhouse, and will return to Stratford where they will run until October 2012. See http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/

[8] See http://www.bplondon2012.com/ for more info.

[9] See http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=22241&title=%27It%27s+a+hoax%27%3A+LOCOG+denies+ditching+BP+as+sustainability+partner

[10] See http://www.greenwashgold.org

[11] See http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/221

The Reclaim Shakespeare Company is supported by the UK Tar Sands Network (www.no-tar-sands.org)

Full text of the script here:

Introducer:
Ladies and gentlemen, there now follows a two minute performance by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, about BP’s sponsorship of tonight’s play.

Narrator:
It was here I did encounter two wyrd brothers.
The first of them was wreath’d in verdant green,
A book of sweet verse clasp’d against his breast,
A merry music whistling through his lips.

What ho, stranger!

Brother 1:
Sirrah, I am a patron of the arts,
Forever in the company of players.
I gladly sponsor theatres, gall’ries, shows,
And spend my leisure planting trees
And tending to the earth.
There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me!

Narrator:
A fine, and worthy man, thought I, as he skipped on his way.

But then a second fellow did approach,
A noxious treach’rous, belching oily rogue,
A poisoner of forest, land and sea
Destroyer of the Gulf of Mexico
Responsible for griefs unspeakable.
His body dark with tar and bleeding oil.

Begone, thou swaggering rascal! did I cry.

Brother 2 (the same actor):
Dost thou not know me, friend? I am no stranger,
Thou spakest with me but a moment hence.
Though thou hast sworn me fair, and thought me bright,
I am as black as hell, as dark as night.

Narrator:

How can this be, the tyrant and the poet
In but one single body? Am I mad?

But as I watch’d, that monstrous tar-drenched knave
Did black the green garb of the fragrant bard.
No gentle patron he! An oily devil
Taking fair nature as his green-tinged guise!
A goodly apple, rotten at the heart

Yet here sit we, believing this conceit:
That BP sponsors Shakespeare and th’Olympics,
As partner in sustainability,
A green and pleasant brand for all to see
And not a villain in a poet’s mask,
Who with his daring folly, burns the world.

Enough! No more!
Now is the summer of our discontent!
Out, damned logo!!!

Bow.

Introducer:

This has been a performance by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company. If you share our concerns about BP’s sponsorship of the arts, please join us in ripping the logo from your programme. We hope you enjoy Comedy of Errors.