BP or not BP? Royal Shakespeare Company cuts ties with oil firm

London (AFP) –


The Royal Shakespeare Company announced Wednesday it was cutting its sponsorship deal with British energy giant BP, after coming under pressure over its provision of cheap tickets for young theatregoers.

BP sponsors £5 ($6.15, 5.60-euro) RSC tickets for 16- to 25-year-olds, which 80,000 people have benefited from since 2013.

The partnership was due to last until 2022 but is being dropped at the end of this year.

It comes after Oscar-winning British actor Mark Rylance announced in June that he was quitting the RSC over the sponsorship deal.

In a joint statement Wednesday, the RSC's artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon said the decision had not been taken lightly.

"We have taken the difficult decision to conclude our partnership with BP at the end of this year," they said.

"Amidst the climate emergency, which we recognise, young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC.

"We cannot ignore that message."

The pair said the £5 (5.6-euro, $6.2) ticket scheme "remains a priority".

BP said it was "disappointed and dismayed" by the decision. Polarised debate and attempts to exclude companies was "exactly what is not needed", it added.

"This global challenge needs everyone -- companies, governments and individuals -- to work together to achieve a low carbon future."

BP and other energy multinationals are under intensifying pressure from campaigners to halt carbon fuel development and focus on renewable forms of energy.

Wednesday's announcement comes just days after school strikers threatened to boycott the RSC over what it called "sickening" links to BP.

In June, Rylance, who had been with the RSC for three decades, wrote in The Guardian newspaper: "I feel I must dissociate myself from the RSC, not because it is any less of a theatre company, but because of the company it keeps."

He claimed BP was "arguably destroying the planet."

"I feel I must resign as I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer," he said.