Geoffrey Rush, currently pursuing a defamation action against News Limited’s The Daily Telegraph for its reporting of a complaint of alleged “inappropriate behaviour” by a fellow cast member during a Sydney Theatre Company show in 2015, has withdrawn from Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Twelfth Night due to open on November 12.
In a statement (reproduced below), Rush said the reason was due to medical advice and “current circumstances’’.
The production was a star vehicle for Rush as Malvolio (pictured above in the MTC publicity for the production). His replacement is yet to be announced. The show’s creative dream team includes director Simon Phillips, designer Gabriela Tylesova and lighting designer Nick Schlieper.
The cast also features Richard Piper as Sir Toby Belch, although Piper’s talents could easily see him take on the role of Malvolio.
The Shakespeare comedy also includes comedian Frank Woodley as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Christie Whelan Browne as Countess Olivia. (Whelan Browne is currently one of the parties being sued for defamation by Craig McLachlan for her allegations of bullying and indecent assault during a 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show.)
At the time of the announcement of MTC’s Twelfth Night, Rush said in its promotional material: “It’s (Shakespeare’s) greatest comedy. I call it the Sgt Pepper of his career”.
Rush appeared in the mid-1980s curio of a film version of the play as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, pictured (right) below with John Wood as Sir Toby Belch.
FULL MTC ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING TWELFTH NIGHT
Melbourne Theatre Company Artistic Director Brett Sheehy has announced that today he received the following statement from Geoffrey Rush regarding his participation in the forthcoming production of Twelfth Night.
Geoffrey Rush said, ‘Due to my current circumstances and medical advice, I must withdraw from the upcoming project of Twelfth Night.
“I do so with the greatest regret. I know that I would not be able to provide the necessary creative spirit and the professional stamina required for the project.
“I am certain that Simon Phillips, the Director, will deliver an outstanding production and I wish all involved the very best in its success.”
Brett Sheehy said, ‘MTC respects Geoffrey’s decision and will be working immediately with Simon Phillips to cast the role in what will continue to be an exciting landmark work in the MTC season. Out of respect for Geoffrey’s privacy we will be making no further comment on this matter. Casting announcements will be made in due course.’”