Mark Andrews on Saturday: Things are going from Bard to verse

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Read today's column from Mark Andrews.

Mark Rylance

FOR the past six years, the Royal Shakespeare Company has had a sponsorship deal with BP, allowing people aged 16-25 to see plays at a reduced rate of £5.

The RSC has now ended the agreement, ironically following protests from ‘young people’. You would think, though, that if the ‘young people’ felt so strongly about it, they would make their protest by simply paying £16 for a standard adult ticket.

In a letter to the RSC, a group of ‘climate strikers’ – that's truants to the rest of us – accused BP of “continuing to extract fossil fuels whilst our earth burns”, adding that “It is sickening that the works of Shakespeare are being associated with these events.”

William Shakespeare – boring?

And I’m inclined to agree. If I was a BP executive, I would be very uncomfortable about any association with Shakespeare, which was one of the most boring and pointless things I ever studied at school. Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I barely understand a word of any of them. And by the time the teacher explained what it all meant, I had forgotten what I was reading anyway.

People say it is topical humour, and it may indeed have been very good in its day. But the same could be said for That Was The Week That Was, and you wouldn’t watch it today, would you?

Indeed, it was the suggestion of a trip to the Royal Shakespeare Company, not as part of the curriculum, but merely as a night out, which convinced me to drop A-level English literature after just one week. I switched to chemistry, which also had its moments, but at least it never involved night-time visits to an ICI plant just for the fun of it.

If I were a ‘young person’ today, I might give serious consideration to joining in the ‘climate strike’. But only if it coincided with Shakespeare lessons.


AMONG the grown-ups complaining about the BP Shakespeare ticket offer is Sir Mark Rylance, who quit the Royal Shakespeare Company earlier this year in protest against the sponsorship.

Sir Mark, best known for his role as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC series Wolf Hall, said: “I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn."

It should not come as a huge surprise, Sir Mark has plenty of form in this area. Let's face it, even Ben Elton has satirised his right-on credentials. I wonder if Sir Mark would like to take Britain back to the good old, low-carbon days of Wolf Hall, when life expectancy was 39.7 years and 12 per cent of all children died in their first year?

What was interesting, though, was that he was filmed last month, looking extremely pleased with himself, arriving on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival in an ultra-PC Lexus Self-Charging Hybrid. Which according to the manufacturer, “Seamlessly combines petrol and electric power”.


Let’s hope they bought the petrol from a Shell garage.

SAJID Javid reckons that by increasing the minimum wage to £10.50 an hour, the Conservatives are now the ‘workers’ party’.

Which I suppose at least puts a little bit of clear blue water between them and the Labour Party, which last week suggested people should only have to turn up for work four days a week.

Both parties have more in common than they think. They are both making populist promises that somebody else, in this case private industry, will have to deliver.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.


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