23:19, October 30 49 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-30 23:19:08
Geoffrey Rush trial: Eryn Jean Norvill accused of telling 'a pack of disgusting lies'

Eryn Jean Norvill has been accused of telling “a whole pack of disgusting lies” about Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush in a bid to “blacken and smear” his reputation.

During a tense and combative cross-examination on Wednesday morning Rush’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, claimed Norvill had told “lies” about Rush behaving inappropriately during a 2015 stage production of King Lear.

McClintock pushed Norvill on comments she made in press articles during the Lear production, and on an account of a conversation with a Sydney Theatre Company employee following the end of the production.

In April 2016 Norvill met with Annelies Crowe from the Sydney Theatre Company at a pub in Annandale in Sydney where she disclosed the allegations that Rush had behaved inappropriately.

“I told her about my experiences on Lear, we discussed whether I was going to do anything about it, what I thought had happened [and] how it had happened,” Norvill said.

In an email to STC staff following the meeting, Crowe wrote Norvill had told her she “directly said [Rush’s] behaviour and comments were making her feel uncomfortable and she asked him directly to stop”.

She also wrote that Rush had followed Norvill into the toilets at an end of production function.

Both of those points contradict Norvill’s later statement. The court has previously heard Norvill only told Rush to “please stop” on one occasion when he allegedly ran his fingers along her back backstage.

Norvill denied putting it in those words, saying it was Crowe’s “recollection” of the conversation, but McClintock pressed her on whether she had “lied” during the conversation.

“You told Ms Crowe a whole pack of disgusting lies about my client, didn’t you?” McClintock said.

“No, I did not,” Norvill replied.

McClintock also pushed Norvill on an interview with the Daily Telegraph in December 2015 in which she said it was a “privilege” to work with Rush and that she enjoyed his “cheekiness”.

“I’m not talking with a friend, I’m talking with a journalist [it is] part of my job to speak about my colleges with respect ... I understand why I would have praised Geoffrey, and you know what I probably wanted to believe that about Geoffrey too.

“He was cheeky but that cheekiness damaged me.”

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Norvill had said members of the cast had been “complicit” in Rush’s behaviour because they hadn’t acted to stop him.

On Wednesday she said senior cast members including Robin Nevin “enabled” Rush’s behaviour.

Nevin, who played the fool in Lear, previously gave evidence she did not witness Rush acting inappropriately during the production.

“Ms Nevin has always been kind to me ... whether she enabled Geoffrey’s behaviour is a different matter. We’re from different generations, maybe we have different ideas about what is culturally appropriate in the workplace,” she said.

“She enabled that behaviour, as did everyone in that room. There was a culture of bullying and harassment in that room and in my industry.

“Sexual harassment happens often and it happened in that room to me and I believe people knew about it but didn’t know what to say [or] didn’t know what to do. They were frightened.”

Rush is suing the newspaper over a series of articles published at the end of November and beginning of December in 2017 that alleged he behaved inappropriately during the 2015 stage production of King Lear.

Rush claims the articles defamed him by portraying him as a “pervert” and “sexual predator”.

The Telegraph is arguing a truth defence. The trial continues.

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