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    « Hands off | Main | Letter from the Court of St James's »
    Wednesday
    Dec192018

    More of Rush's "spirited enthusiasm"

    Yael Stone puts the cat among the pigeons ... Will Rush sue again? ... A confident and creditable performance ... The backstage role of Leon Zwier from Arnold Bloch Leibler ... Belittling women who have something to say ... Defamation, a mug's game 

    Zwier with Norvill: sought to settle Rush v Telegraph

    IT took Arnold Bloch Leibler partner Leon Zwier about six weeks to arrange the details of actor Yael Stone's Geoffrey Rush interview with The New York Times and the ABC's 7.30

    He has been representing Stone pro bono and he also acted for Eryn Jean Norvill in unsuccessful settlement negotiations in the Rush v Daily Telegraph case. 

    Would Rush sue again after Stone revealed her experiences with him while performing in Belvoir's 2010 production of The Dairy of a Madman?  

    Zwier ensured that Stone has reinforcements with Dr Matt Collins QC giving advice and undertaking to appear in any defamation litigation that might follow the new allegations. He believed it was important that Stone come to terms with what happened and to tell her story openly, without fear of the consequences. 

    In her interviews, Stone was strong, intelligent and clear. She would have been a compelling defence witness in the Telegraph hearings.

    As it was, Justice Michael Wigney in the Federal Court excluded evidence for the defence from someone called "Witness X". In this sense, he preferred orderly case management over getting to the truth. 

    A suppression order seals from the public the identity of Witness X and the nature and quality of his or her evidence. In light of these fresh public revelations it would make sense for that suppression order to be lifted. 

    What Yael Stone has done is to show the contrived quality of defamation proceedings - the way issues become stilted and the evidence confined so that the court gets a mangled or partial version of the truth. 

    Director Neil Armfield and actor Robyn Nevin gave particular evidence for Rush at the trial, restricting their observations to the 2015-2016 STC production of King Lear. They saw nothing "inappropriate" and denied the import of text messages, yet the theatre world was awash with stories about Rush's unwanted attentions directed towards young women. 

    We have one narrowed down story for the court and an altogether different one for the theatre. 

    A telling email from an STC manager, in whom actor Eryn Jean Norvill confided, told of the extent of Rush's reputation.  

    Stone in her ABC interview said she had sympathy for Rush. The theatre world shaped his behaviour, allowed it, encouraged it and suddenly a lot of people stood up and said NO. 

    It was a huge "gear shift" and unfortunately for Rush his foot was not on the clutch. 

    Stone says Rush danced naked in front of her in the dressing room, "with his penis out", about 40-45 centimetres from her face; that he perved on her while she was in the shower; that he sent her escalating sexually provocative text messages; that he stroked her back at an awards night; and that he invited her to sleep with him. 

    Yael Stone: said NO (pix NYT)

    She was advised to try and manage the situation during her time performing as the Finnish maid to Rush's Poprishchin in Nikolai Gogol's Diary, but by the end of the season she had "never hated acting so much ... I couldn't wait for the show to be over".  

    Rush denies the allegations, through his lawyers. He says Yael "has been upset on occasions by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work", but he never intended to distress her. 

    According to Ms Stone, his intentions were directed to getting her into his bed. 

    Following Monday night's TV interview, the Belvoir Theatre Co posted a note on its website: 

    "In regard to the 7:30 Report interview on 17 December, we're upset that Yael has carried these years of anguish. Belvoir strives to have a safe and respectful workplace for artists, staff and audiences." 

    The ABC asked the director Neil Armfield for a comment, but he didn't respond.  

    The allegations by Eryn Jean Norvill, who performed with Rush in the STC's production of King Lear, were of a similar nature. The "inappropriate behaviour" included lewd gestures, unwanted physical contact, inappropriate comments, bulging of eyes and smacking of lips, provocative text messages, touching her breast and her back.  

    Like Stone, Norvill felt intimidated and compromised "at the bottom of the rung" in a rehersal room "that was complicit". Norvill told the court:

    "I felt threatened. Panicked. Yes, my panic levels shot up. I felt unsafe. And probably sad. I think Geoffrey's idea of friendship was different to mine." 

    For Rush, Bruce McClintock and Sue Chrysanthou repeatedly insisted that Norvill was lying, although why she would do so was never adequately explained.  

    Stone also said that Rush made her feel uncomfortable and compromised, yet as a 25-year-old in a working relationship with a much older star actor she did not know how to respond properly. 

    Justice Wigney himself, appeared also to be caught in a time-warp. He was sceptical that Rush would enter the theatre bathroom to harass Norvill; he thought Rush would have to be a "contortionist" to touch her breast; that there was nothing provocative in describing Norvill as "scruptious" and "yummy"; and there was nothing "sinister" in Rush's text message that he was thinking of Norvill "more than is socially appropriate", accompanied by a winking, tongue-out emoji. 

    He also thought that it was "bizarre" to claim that Rush would do anything for his sexual gratification that might undermine the emotional intensity of his performance.  

    Rush sued The Daily Telegraph in an attempt to restore his reputation, yet he is unlikely to repeat the same reputation-restoring experience by taking on the ABC, The New York Times and Yael Stone for publishing these precise, confident and credible allegations. 

    What emerges from Norvill and Stone is that Rush played the clownish sleaze, which was his cover for actually being a sleaze, and that no one did anything about it for years, until the objects of his unwanted attention stood-up. 

     

    See: Justinian's three part series on the Rush v Nationwide News defamation trial: 

    Oh, Geoffrey 

    Oh, sweetheart 

    Oh, Wigney 

    Also: 

    The New York Times: The cost of telling a #MeToo story in Australia

    The ABC 7.30 interview with Yael Stone  

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