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VIDEO: Climate activists invade RSC stage

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A PROTEST group which invaded the stage ahead of last Thursday evening's performance of the RSC's Antony and Cleopatra at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon has released a video of their demonstration.

Confused audience members looked on as activist theatre troupe BP or not BP? took to the stage in a protest over BP's sponsorship of discounted youth tickets.

Two members of the group - Phoebe Demeger and Darragh Martin - told the Herald, today, Friday, that their protest performance - lasting three minutes - was peaceful, non-threatening and best described as a show of climate activism.

"We planned a time that would be least disruptive and had a co-ordinated plan as to when we would get on stage. It was very quick and very peacful. We are protesting against BP sponsorship of the arts and the RSC and we have staged similar protests at the British Museum," Phoebe Demeger said.

An official statement from BP or not BP? reads: “The performance of Antony and Cleopatra in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre had an unexpected warm-up act, when two performers took the stage without permission a few minutes before the play was due to start. The first performer pretended to be a spokesperson for the RSC’s sponsor BP, but his cringeworthy PR-speak was suddenly interrupted by a furious William Shakespeare.

“The rebel actors – from the activist theatre troupe ‘BP or not BP?’ were there to highlight the hypocrisy of BP sponsoring the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for young people, while the company is destroying those young people’s futures. BP is one of the world’s most polluting companies, actively lobbying to block climate action and continue extracting fossil fuels way beyond levels that are safe for the climate. The RSC receives less than 0.5% of its annual income from BP, and last year made a £4.6 million surplus.”

At the end of the duo’s performance, one of the actors encouraged the audience to rip the BP logo from their programmes and hand it in to RSC staff at the end of the performance.

The group say they had originally attempted this disobedient performance on the show's press night in March, but were prevented by RSC staff. This time they say they performed unhindered and walked away freely afterwards.

"We support the right for peaceful protest and think this was a legitimate action to take. It is ethically untenable for the RSC to be linked with BP," said Helen Glynn spokesperson for the acting troupe of protestors.

Responding to last night's protest a spokesperson for the RSC today said: "There was a peaceful protest about BP’s sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage just before the evening performance of Antony & Cleopatra last night (Thursday 27 April).

"We support people’s right to protest, and our first priority is safety for everyone involved, so where possible, we ask for protests to happen off stage outside our buildings. Last night the protest was a peaceful one, and we allowed it to continue on stage, but we are always mindful of present security concerns.

"BP sponsor our £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds, which gives many young people the chance to see our work. The scheme is highly valued by our audiences and helps us establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre. Since 2013, we have sold over 62,000 tickets thanks to BP’s support.

"Corporate sponsorship is an important part of our diverse funding mix, alongside ticket sales, public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity. Together they allow us to deliver our artistic programme and reach the widest possible audience."

Full story and interviews in next week's Herald.

Were you at this performance? Contact our newsdesk on 01789 412819 or email us at: news@stratford-herald.com

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