Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance has quit the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) over sponsorship funding it receives from BP.
Sir Mark accused the energy firm of obscuring its damaging environmental impact by supporting arts organisations.
BP sponsors the RSC’s ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds.
Writing for The Guardian and campaign group Culture Unstained, he said: “Today 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.
“I feel I must resign as 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.
“The RSC will continue pushing BP’s brand on to a generation of young people who have – in huge numbers through the ongoing school strikes – told adults they need to step up their response to the climate crisis now.
“Surely the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?”
Sir Mark added on BP: “Does this company have the right to associate itself with Shakespeare?
“Does it even have the right to have the word ‘British’ in its name when it is arguably destroying the planet our children and grandchildren will depend on to breathe, drink, eat and survive?”
The actor has called on the RSC to set a positive example for the future of sponsorship in the arts.
Gregory Doran, RSC artistic director, and Catherine Mallyon, RSC executive director, said: “We are saddened that Mark Rylance has decided he can no longer be one of our associate artists, but we respect his decision. We thank him for his long association with the company.
“Importantly, no sponsor influences or drives our artistic decision making and we are committed to exploring contemporary issues and ideas in all our work.
“We have a clear donation and sponsorship acceptance policy and consider potential offers of support individually.”
They added: “Corporate sponsorship is an important part of our funding, alongside ticket sales, public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity.
“BP’s sponsorship of our £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds gives many young people the chance to see our work, and the scheme is highly valued by our audiences.”