200 members of the Reclaim Shakespeare Company took over the British Museum’s Great Court and performed a series of anti-BP plays yesterday.

The flashmob of ‘actor-vists’ performed a re-interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the British Museum’s Great Court. The performance — which included 200 people chanting “double, double, oil is trouble; tar sands burn as greenwash bubbles” – was followed by three more Shakespeare-inspired playlets.

The flashmob provoked a major police and security presence inside the museum. The BP-sponsored “Shakespeare: Staging The World” exhibition was closed and the museum’s giant iron gates were bolted shut for the duration. This comes in the same week as BP accepted criminal responsibility, including manslaughter, for the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster. It has been hit with a fine of $4.5 billion, making it the biggest convicted corporate criminal in US history.

Executive witch, by Kristian Buus

This was the ninth and final pop-up performance this season by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, a group who have come together in opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival. They have been particularly critical of BP’s branding of several plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and the British Museum’s ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’ exhibition.

During their season of theatrical protests, the Reclaim Shakespeare Company have invaded the stage three times at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, and once each at the Roundhouse, Noel Coward Theatre and Riverside Studios in London. They have also performed uninvited twice before at BP-branded Shakespeare events at the British Museum. Performances have attracted support and applause from audiences, staff and even RSC performers.

The balcony scene, by Kristian Buus

The protests at the RSC appear to have been successful. Following these interventions, the RSC last week stated that: “We have no further sponsorship [with BP] confirmed”. Next year’s programme of plays has been announced, and none are sponsored by BP.

This season finale, entitled ‘Out, damned logo!’, was the first to be openly advertised. The actor-vists are concerned by the British Museum’s decision to accept sponsorship from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster, the company’s decision to start extracting highly polluting and destructive tar sands oil in Canada, its enormous contribution towards climate change, and its recently-announced partnership with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft in order to exploit the hazardous and vulnerable Arctic. Pressure on cultural institutions to consider the ethics of their sponsorship deals is currently high following the sudden ending of the National Gallery’s long-running sponsorship deal with an arms company last month.

BP is ejected from the British Museum, by Kristian Buus

Jess Worth, one of the performers, said: “BP is officially the world’s biggest corporate criminal, following the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Its activities in the tar sands, the Arctic, and elsewhere are locking us into a future of disastrous runaway climate change. The British Museum should sever all ties with BP, because this sponsorship deal is giving the company a veneer of respectability that it does not deserve.”

Richard Howlett, another performer, said: “As the reality of climate change becomes ever clearer, the case for ending oil sponsorship of the arts is gathering momentum. The RSC seem to have seen sense, and decided to no longer act as a figleaf to hide BPs destructive activities. The British Museum, Tate, National Portrait Gallery and others must now do the right thing and follow suit. We need decent public funding for the arts that doesnt allow unscrupulous companies like BP to buy themselves such a dangerous level of public credibility.”

This flashmob was organised by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, UK Tar Sands Network, Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil, Rising Tide UK and London Rising Tide.

Out, damned logo! by Kristian Buus

The script :

The British Museum: A Tale of Corruption

Dramatis Personae

First BP Executive
Second BP Executive
Third BP Executive
Chorus of Exhibition Viewers

The Scene: The Great Court

Chanting begins from somewhere. Soon a few more voices join in, quietly and relatively unobtrusively but growing to a crescendo.

Double, double: oil is trouble,
Tar sands burn, as greenwash bubbles

Three BP Executives are circulating/circling the room. They shriek and begin to speak, joining together in the centre, and the chanting stops.

 First BP Executive
When shall BP meet again
In oil spills, tar sands, toxic rain?

 Second BP Executive
When the sponsorship is done,
PR battle fought and won.

Third BP Executive
That will be ere: 2012.

First BP Executive
Where the place?

Second BP Executive
The British Museum.

Third BP Executive
Here to meet with…

ALL BP Executives
Our good friend, the Museum Director!
Oily ambassador, artefact collector

First BP Executive
To help us banish remembrance
of crude-oiled-turtles!

Second BP Executive
Pelican coughs!

Third BP Executive
11 Deepwater workers’ lives

First BP Executive

Second BP Executive

Third BP Executive
-in a flash!

ALL BP Executives
A drum, a drum!
The museum doth come!

Enter Museum Director, elegant, cultured, calm.

All BP Executives
All hail, Museum! Hail to thee, thane of Great Russell Street!

I bid you welcome, corporate queens and kings
Come throw your parties ‘midst our priceless things!

The BP Executives begin to surround the Director, covering him in BP logos.

First BP Executive
Round about the globe we go;
Into the ocean oil we throw.
Tar, that lurks beneath the ground,
Uproots and kills without a sound.
Fish lie dead, nothing survives
While back in London our brand thrives

ALL BP Executives
Double, double: oil is trouble,
Tar sands burn, as greenwash bubbles.

Second BP Executive
Mountains of our filthy cash
In bank accounts: an awesome stash;
Greenhouse gas, a Gulf in grief,
We’re always lurking there, beneath.
Dodgy dealings give us pounds
Towards the champagne/caviar rounds.

ALL BP Executives
Double, double: oil is trouble,
Tar sands burn, as greenwash bubbles.

Other chorus members, placed at different parts of the room, begin to join in the BP Executives chant. During the chant the Director becomes fully lured and joins in.
Chorus members chant changes and they begin to turn on the witches:

Double, double: oil is trouble,
Let’s reduce BP to rubble!

The chanting intensifies and the chorus closes in around the witches who begin to shrink back with fear. The chorus lift the witches up in the air and, still chanting, physically carry them to the entrance and eject them from the building.