(Adaptation by Chris Holden of El Greco's “Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple")
Art Not Oil - previous site "archive" - to 06th Oct 2013
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1st October 2012
RSC hit by yet another on-stage protest over BP sponsorship
Theatre staff fail to stop members of the Reclaim Shakespeare Company jumping on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon and delivering a surprise anti-BP performance in front of a full house.
Watch the film at www.bp-or-not-bp.org/news/twelfthnight/:
For more information, interviews, photographs and film footage contact Richard Howlett on:firstname.lastname@example.org or 07960465594.
On Saturday (29th September 2012), a group of merry players known as the “Reclaim Shakespeare Company” took unexpectedly to the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Five minutes before a BP-sponsored Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) performance of Twelfth Night was due to begin, the three actor-vists performed a short Twelfth Night-inspired piece. They challenged the RSC over its decision to accept sponsorship from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster  and the company’s decision to start extracting highly polluting and destructive tar sands oil in Canada .
This was the seventh intervention by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, and the third on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage. In the two-minute sketch, BP swaggers on to the stage, sporting a huge logo as a ruff and yellow stockings cross-gartered with green, and proclaims: ‘If oil be the fuel for us, drill on! / Give us excess of it that, surfeiting, / the planet may sicken, and so die...’ The RSC then declares her love for BP: ‘British Petrolio! By the roses of the spring, / by branding, sponsorship and everything, / I love thee so...’ Feste interrupts, appalled at the tableau: ‘Alas, poor RSC, how hath BP baffled thee?’, pointing out that ‘some are born green. Some achieve greenness, / And SOME purchase a semblance of greenness by sponsoring cultural events.’ The RSC soon realises the error of her ways, finally announcing ‘I would I were well rid of this knavery. / Out damned logo!’ with which she rips the BP logo from the RSC programme as BP falls to his knees. The audience responded with laughter and applause. The full script can be found below. 
The RSC has stated publicly several times that it will allow these performances to take place.  However, on the night RSC staff tried hard to stop the protest, telling the performers it was dangerous to be up on stage because there was an area of open water. The actor-vists were of course aware of this and carefully stayed well away from the water, as they had done twice before. Despite the RSC’s protestations, the performance went ahead as planned.
This comes in the wake of a wave of controversy around BP’s sponsorship of the arts and the London 2012 Olympics. Mark Rylance, one of the UK’s leading actors, has publicly expressed his concerns about BP sponsorship  and RSC Playwright in Residence Mark Ravenhill revealed during a talk at the Latitude Festival that there was now a huge debate going on within the RSC about BP. As the BP-sponsored season draws to a close this month, all eyes are on the RSC to see if they continue the relationship beyond the World Shakespeare Festival. 
Sophia Rousseau, who played ‘the RSC’ in the guerilla Shakespeare performance, said: “I believe our arts institutions should have the integrity not to accept sponsorship money from companies that are ruining our planet for profit. I hope this will be the end of BP and the RSC’s ugly friendship.”
James Atherton, who played the part of BP, said “BP shouldn’t be allowed to project their dirty ideals into people’s minds. While BP’s activities around the world are some of the most destructive and dangerous to our climate, I feel it’s improper that they can gain positive publicity through associating their brand with our cultural heritage.”
Notes to Editors
-  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. Seehttp://gizmodo.com/5903021/bp-oil-spill-aftermath-eyeless-shrimp- clawless-crabs-and-fish-with-oozing-sores
-  In December 2010, BP announced it was going ahead with a £1.6 billion investment in its first tar sands extraction project in Canada, known as ‘Sunrise’. Tar sands are one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel on earth, and trample on the rights of local indigenous peoples. Respected NASA scientist James Hanson has calculated that if all the tar sands are extracted as planned, we have no hope of preventing runaway climate change. Tar sands extraction also causes huge damage to the local environment, and has serious effects on the health and livelihoods of local indigenous communities. BP is now looking to make major new investments in this risky, capital-intensive, highly-polluting unconventional oil. Seehttp://www.no-tar- sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands/ and http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html
-  The Reclaim Shakespeare Company have leapt on stage at three BP-sponsored RSC productions previously, two at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and one at the Roundhouse. It has also staged interventions at ‘Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad’ at the Riverside Studios, and twice at the BP-sponsored Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum. For more information, including films of these performances, see www.bp-or-not-bp.org You can also find the campaign on Facebook: ‘BP or not BP?’ and Twitter:@ReclaimOurBard
-  The script can be found at the end of these notes.
-  See ‘RSC and BP content to let onstage protests continue’, Stratford Herald,http://www.stratford- herald.com/local-news/5581-rsc-and-bp-happy-for-onstage-protest-to-continue.html and ‘RSC welcomes more protests’ by Michael Coveney, What’s on Stage,http://www.whatsonstage.com/blog/theatre/london/E8831335516009/RSC+welcome+more+protests.html
-  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 . Then on 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 He then spoke eloquently about this moral dilemma on the Andrew Marr show on 1st July:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjZxpATxUHs
-  BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival and the “What country friends is this?” trilogy of plays (The Tempest, Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors) by the RSC is part of a massive sponsorship deal for the Olympics, which also included being Oil & Gas Partner and Sustainability Partner to the Games themselves. See http://www.bplondon2012.com/ for more info. This sponsorship has 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 - 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
the launch of the “Greenwash Gold” awards for worst Olympics sponsor, which offered the public the choice to vote for BP, Dow Chemical and Rio Tinto – see www.greenwashgold.org
- an Early Day Motion in Parliament – seehttp://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/221
Character 1 - BP:
If oil be the fuel for us, drill on;
Give us excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The planet may sicken, and so die.
Let's drill again! And cast a dying pall,
O'er the tar sands of sweet Canada,
The Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico,
Stealing and screwing over.
Character 2 – RSC:
British Petrolio! By the roses of the spring,
by branding, sponsorship and everything,
I love thee so, that, discarding my pride,
nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
For I do love thee for thy patronage
With adorations, fertile tears, with groans
that thunder love, with sighs of fire...
Character 3 – Feste
If this were played upon a stage now,
I would condemn’t as an improbable fiction!
Alas, poor RSC, how hath BP baffled thee?
Thou hast made contract of eternal bond
With a notable pirate, a deepwater thief!
Art thou mad, to profit from such a dissembler?
For some are born green, some achieve greenness,
And some purchase a semblance of greenness by sponsoring cultural events...
I prithee, RSC, direct thy feet
Where thou and BP henceforth may never meet!
Character 2 – RSC
Enough! No more!
Oil’s not as sweet now as it was before.
BP, thou villain! How was I beguiled?
Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness,
Wherein the oily enemy does much.
[Points at BP] You spread a green and yellow melancholy,
Sitting without conscience in your offices,
Smiling at grief.
I would I were well rid of this knavery.
Out damned logo! [rips logo from programme]