22:26, October 28 339 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-28 22:26:04
Geoffrey Rush accuser did not mention 'anything sexual' to cast member, court told

The actor at the centre of accusations against Geoffrey Rush had a “tearful” conversation with a co-star about her experiences on the 2015 production of King Lear.

But Eryn-Jean Norvill did not mention “anything sexual” during the conversation, a court has heard.

Monday was the sixth day in Rush’s two-week defamation trial against the Daily Telegraph over a series of articles published at the end of November and beginning of December in 2017 alleging he had behaved inappropriately towards Norvill during a 2015 Sydney Theatre Company production of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The court heard from Robyn Nevin, a long-time friend of Rush’s and fellow actor in the King Lear production.

Nevin denied seeing Rush act inappropriately during the play, but revealed to the court that following the production she had a conversation with Norvill in which she tearfully spoke about her experiences during King Lear.

“She was tearful, I said what’s the matter [and] she said being back here reminds me of the stuff, the trouble with Geoffrey,” Nevin said.

“Which I took to be the trouble she was having with Cordelia, the struggles, she was very unhappy in the role.”

But Nevin flatly denied that Norvill mentioned “anything sexual” in the conversation when it was put to her by the Daily Telegraph’s barrister, Tom Blackburn SC.

“She most definitely did not suggest that to me [and] it is just appalling that you would put those words in my mouth … there was absolutely no allusion or reference to anything sexual,” she said.

The conversation took place during rehearsal for a production of All My Sons in the same theatre as Lear, and Nevin said being in the same place had prompted Norvill to become upset.

“She was in a tearful state and when I asked her what was wrong she said it just reminds me, I’m absolutely paraphrasing here [but] it reminds me of the trouble I had here with King Lear,” she said. “I didn’t leap to the conclusion it was sexual harassment, she didn’t say [it was] inappropriate behaviour.”

During his cross-examination Blackburn repeatedly put to Nevin that sexual harassment had been mentioned during the conversation, and that she had said to Norvill: “I thought Geoffrey had stopped doing that, poor Jane [Menelaus, Rush’s wife].”

Nevin denied saying that.

The court also heard that Nevin sent a text to Norvill enquiring about her wellbeing on 1 December, shortly after the first Telegraph article had been published.

“Oh dear girl are you OK? … It’s nasty, I hope you’ll be protected and I’m sure you will be,” the text read.

Norvill was not mentioned in the article, and Blackburn contended that the reason Nevin knew she was the complainant mentioned in the article was because of the earlier conversation.

Nevin said she could not remember how she knew that Norvill was the complainant.

“I was distressed for Ms Norvill because I knew what it would mean to have this revealed to the public,” Nevin said.

She said “no” repeatedly when asked if Rush had acted inappropriately towards Norvill during the production.

Earlier the court heard from two-time Oscar nominee Judy Davis, who has appeared opposite Rush in films including Children of the Revolution (1996) and Swimming Upstream (2003). Davis said Rush had “a fine reputation” and a “really serious heavyweight reputation as an actor”.

“He has a tremendous track record internationally; a tremendous record of achievement,” Davis said.

Asked if she had heard anybody talking about the articles, Davis said she did not like gossiping and tended not to move in theatrical circles but she had spoken to “a couple of people”.

“Well they’ve said, really, that his career is finished,” Davis said.

The trial continues.