Activists invade Gergiev London concert

An activist group claims to have taken over the stage at a concert by the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at Cadogan Hall on Monday. Their targets included Putin’s anti-LGBT policies and his Government’s alleged links to the oil company BP. There has been no independent report of the demonstration, nor any published review of the concert.

The activists issued the following release and picture:

anti-gergiev protest

photo: Hugh Warwick

‘Actorvists’ invade stage with same-sex ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at BP-sponsored concert

•    Cadogan Hall concert targeted due to oil sponsor and Russian conductor’s links with Putin
•    Unsanctioned ‘balcony scene’ entertains audience
•    Concert-goers include high-level officials from BP, and British and Russian governments 

Three performers from theatrical campaign group BP or not BP? took to the stage – and a balcony – at Cadogan Hall this evening to challenge BP’s sponsorship, just before Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra was due to begin a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Invitees included VIPs from BP, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Russian Embassy, who gathered for a BP-hosted reception beforehand.

The actorvists, all of whom are LGBT, performed their own four-minute version of the Shakespeare play, titled ‘Ramira and Juliet’, in which the lovers are gay musicians who fall out over Ramira accepting sponsorship from BP. Adapting many famous passages from the play, they ultimately sort out their differences, drop the oily sponsor, and marry – which would be illegal in Russia under its draconian anti-gay laws. [1] The full script can be found below.
Concert-goers laughed and applauded as the performers recreated the famous balcony scene with an anti-BP, pro-gay rights twist, culminating in the actorvists ripping the BP logo from their programmes. A lone heckler was shushed by the audience, and boos could be heard whenever BP’s name was mentioned. Security allowed the performance to conclude and the disobedient thespians left the building of their own accord.

BP is a major operator in Russia, holding a 19.75% stake in massive state oil company Rosneft, making it the largest shareholder after the Russian government. Rosneft is probably Russia’s worst polluter, [2] responsible for multiple spills and leaks, including once causing oil to flow out of domestic taps. [3] BP has been actively sponsoring and promoting Russian culture and achievements in the UK, [4] and has previously lobbied against sanctions linked to the conflict in Ukraine, which have put plans to drill in the Arctic with Rosneft on ice. [5]

BP recently sponsored the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition, which celebrated Russian space exploration and saw the museum’s director receive the Pushkin medal from Vladimir Putin. [6] The BP-sponsored Mariinsky Orchestra’s world-famous conductor, Valery Gergiev, is a vocal supporter of Putin and has been targeted by gay rights protests in the past. [7] The performance also comes two days before the anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which has cost the company more than $50 billion and the impacts of which are still affecting residents and ecosystems today. [8]

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  • I suspect that Putin isn’t homophobic but his policies undoubtably are. Maybe these are spearheaded by people other than Putin.

  • I note that this is reported in a neutral tone. However, if it had been a protest against the Israeli government at a concert by an Israeli ensemble or Israeli musicians….

    • It would have been a very different kind of story and therefore a different kind of tone would have been fully justifiable.

  • That it has homophobic laws? That it is corrupt? (More so than most governments — it takes all sorts of blat, at the very least, to get anything done?). It is not particularly well-disposed — even sometimes to the extent of making sure they cease to breathe — to critics, and especially journalists).

    You are a good defender of Russia but if you persist in trying to present it as born without original sin, your credibility will shrink to zero. It has problems, and it will be a better place if those who love it start to admit it so they can start to solve some of them.

  • Why were they allowed to go on with their disruption for 4 minutes? Security should have immediately hauled them away and they should be charged with trespassing and anything else they can be under various nuisance laws. People who paid good money to attend the performance don’t deserve to have it disrupted and violated by some activist jokers trying to insert their leftist political agenda into it.

  • Blimey, Gergiev & the Mariinsky reduced to playing corporate gigs at the Cadogan Hall? How are the mighty fallen…

  • Why just publish a one-sided press release like this? We were seated in the front of the gallery, from where the protestors were totally inaudible. It all seemed utterly pointless and self-indulgent, especially when you could see how pleased with themselves the protestors looked. I sympathise with their aims but this was not the way to get them across to anyone. It was a complete waste of time and energy.

    • Mr. Shanes is spot on. The activists’ press statement is biased.
      I saw 2 or 3 people, apparently acting out a brief scena, and if they were protesting about something all I can say is that I couldn’t hear a word of it, apart from the names ‘Ramira and Juliet’. Utterly limp and pathetic. And the audience response was next to nil, contrary to the ‘protesters’ claim.

    • Eric, Your comment sounds right for me. Freedom of speech is a great thing but that provocative approach to make a mess of musical performance is really ugly.

  • I was not there but this futile attempt to disrupt the enjoyment of others who had bought tickets would have achieved far greater respect and empathy if made outside the hall so that everyone arriving could see and hear it. Halldor, this was not their first appearance there, and it was not a “corporate gig”, it being standard practice for sponsors to be invited to hear whatever they have paid to have performed.

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