News & Commentary, Stage

‘Inappropriate behaviour’ in theatre and the rush to judgement

Ninety-five years ago, Walter Lippmann, one of the most influential journalists of the twentieth century, published Public Opinion, a book that quickly became a seminal text. His argument was that in a world where facts are often difficult — distant and elusive symbols and fictions are important parts of human communication. Our social beliefs are a response to personalised pictures inside our heads. He coined a new term for these: “stereotypes”.

For Lippmann, analysis of public opinion begins by recognising the triangular relationship between facts, the human pictures of facts, and the human response to those pictures. In other words, it must account for the stereotypes that form the basis of our thinking. Language too is a limiting factor, as different words can have different meanings for different people. Time constraints, distractions and antipathy also impede access to, or obscure the importance of facts. These limitations “combine with the obscurity and complexity of the facts themselves to thwart clearness and justice of perception, to substitute misleading fictions for workable ideas”.

Are we responding to facts or fictions? Are we making judgments based on knowledge? Can we tell the difference between thinking we know the details of a case and actually knowing them?

Public Opinion was written in 1922, a time when a level of ignorance about what was happening in the world was still possible. Enter social media and the internet, font of all knowledge. In the past, we weren’t subject to a continual barrage of information we had to have opinions about. Today, not only are we constantly updated, but the personal nature of Facebook and Twitter means we feel compelled to engage and our emotional responses are on steroids.

But are we responding to facts or fictions? Are we making judgments based on knowledge? Can we tell the difference between thinking we know the details of a case and actually knowing them?

In a recent experiment involving over 1,000 people, Yale University put that issue to the test. Participants were divided into two. One group was asked to use the internet to look up questions like “how does a zip work?” The other had to rely on their prior knowledge. Those in the first group not only rated themselves superior in their ability to answer the control questions but also questions unrelated to their original task. What the experiment showed is that having access to the internet fools our brain into believing it is cleverer than it is, regardless of whether searching it produces relevant answers, or indeed any answers at all. We believe we know, just by pulling up a search engine.

This illusion of knowledge combined with Lippmann’s stereotypical thinking has resulted in a very dangerous mix. By mistaking availability of information for actual understanding, we have created an environment where the favoured tool of public opinion is the hammer, and every issue a nail we collectively beat the crap out of. Considered judgement just takes too much time. It gets in the way of thinking we know stuff.

An example of indiscriminate hasty judgement is the media fracas around the actor Geoffrey Rush, part of the fall-out of what some are calling “The Weinstein Effect”. In the Western world, gender relations have been a simmering issue for years. Rightly so. But neither Donald Trump’s misogyny nor Tony Abbott’s endorsement of the “Ditch the Witch” campaign were enough to affect change. On the contrary, both men were elected to high office. Then came sordid tales of predatory assaults on actors in Hollywood and London, and out came the media hammers. In a world that values sound-bites over substance, Lippmann’s picture-makers went looking for a nail to hit.

The theatre is a place of profound vulnerability, a place where overstepping the lines of normal behaviour is unavoidable, and sometimes encouraged.

What began as an isolated example of tabloid mud spraying soon snowballed as respected media organisations jumped on board. First was The Sydney Morning Herald. Then Daily Review followed suit. Even the ABC got in on the act, as seasoned journalist Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast repeated what turned out to be a misleading allegation.

So what did happen at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015, and how/why did we get it so wrong?

All we know in fact is that during the course of a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, a member of the company went to the STC’s management to make a complaint of inappropriate conduct. We don’t know precisely what the complaint referred to, simply that it was inappropriate. We don’t know exactly when: some time after the start of rehearsals but before the close of the run. The company member could be one of the cast, or one of the many behind-the-scenes staff who support a professional theatre show.

Staging a theatre production is a fragile and hazardous business, where actors draw on their own experiences and emotional resources to give depth and meaning to a fictional world. In the process, a creative vortex opens up between reality and the emotional life of the play. The better the acting, the bigger the vortex. Because of this, the theatre is a place of profound vulnerability, a place where overstepping the lines of normal behaviour is unavoidable, and sometimes encouraged.

That is not to say that actors are exceptional people entitled to special consideration under the law. But it should be recognised that acting is a job that comes with a very particular set of difficulties and risks. It may not suit the hammer-and-nail times in which we live to say it, but there is a grey area, and it is sometimes unclear what is appropriate behaviour and what is unwelcome, unwise or going too far.

For some people, this is already unacceptable. Querying even an accusation of inappropriate conduct is a defence of sexism, no matter that the nature of the conduct has not been stated, the complainant has not been identified, and the events lie two years in the past. For others, it is vivid illustration of how stereotypical thinking links up with internet-fueled media saturation to produce a result both unreasonable and unfair. It does not address the complaint, nor assist the complainant and Rush to reach a resolution.

While the media must take some of the blame for roping-in the Rush complaint to a cluster of other, serious, clearly criminal ones, it is the responsibility of the STC to manage the complaint process in a way that its outcome reflects the truth of the matter.

The disparities of power and influence between artists who are senior or well-known and successful, and those who are just starting out, can be extreme.

Management of a theatre company, like theatre making, is a specialist skill set. It is one that relies less on formal qualifications than understanding a workplace that needs careful stewardship to foster the benefits of live performance, while guarding against the inherent dangers it presents. There are a range of instruments companies can use to address unwanted behaviour: codes of conduct; union regulations; the explicit hierarchy of production, where lines of responsibility between actors, directors and support staff are firmly delineated.

And these instruments are needed, not only because creativity is an unstable force, but because the disparities of power and influence between artists who are senior or well-known and successful, and those who are just starting out, can be extreme. It is an art form where stories of selfish, erratic and destructive actions are common and persistent. To be absolutely clear: these are not to be tolerated but eradicated. But there is a difference between managing difficult behaviour and condoning it and it is precisely because theatre companies should take the issue of artists’ behaviour seriously, that they mustn’t go off half-cocked.

That under pressure from a tabloid media outlet the STC would abruptly offer up Rush’s name without providing details of what he was alleged to have done, or giving him a chance to respond, is profoundly disturbing. It has fed Rush into a process of stereotypical thinking that is quick to pass judgement and slow to realise where it is ignorant of the factual means to do so. It has almost guaranteed him a “trial by association”.

When we ourselves are in the rehearsal room, as actor and director, working hard under enormous pressure, we sometimes urge our colleagues not to withhold judgement, but to not judge just yet; to give time for Lippmann’s “clearness and justice of perception” to arise. Whatever happened at the STC in 2015, the handling of the Rush complaint deserves that time and justice. Thus far, it has not been given it.

30 responses to “‘Inappropriate behaviour’ in theatre and the rush to judgement

  1. I agree with the authors of this article,. Even in the Sydney SunHerald tabloid of 24/12/17, Geoffrey Rush’s name and the story concerning his so-called ” inappropriate ” behaviour is on a page featuring other far more serious and serial and obviously sexual predators. It ‘s a tragedy that a superb artist such as Geoffrey Rush has been subjected to this ” Damnation by Innuendo”.
    ” INAPPROPRIATE ” — for gossake, what a weaselling word is that,
    I would love to read what Don Watson has to say on the use of this word…
    Out damned word, you mean NOTHING….

  2. Garbage. The theatre and movie worlds are the next Catholic Church: this is the bullshit that directors and those in power over vulnerable actors want you to believe. It’s an industry full of people who are aware that they get this pass to exploit and abuse because “it’s art”. The bullying and emotional blackmail I and my classmates experienced just in *training*, at Flinders University Drama Centre… back then as a particularly naive seventeen year old, I thought I just had to accept the abuse and harassment. Looking back as a woman in my 40s, I’m just thoroughly disgusted and horrified.

  3. I agree with you a 100% this was a despicable act by the management of STC. They should be sued within an inch of their lives so that they understand the concept of privacy & integrity, handing up his name so the pressure eases off them is a weasley way of treating their actors & those that drag in the punters. Especially an actor of Rushes calibre. This smacks of fear & loathing & true management ineffectuality, to me there needs to be a board reshuffle & an apology to him, so that he can somehow cobble together the shreds of his career, that may or not be in ruins. I hope they all choke on their Xmas turkey & or flavourless tofu/faux turkey, we need to be PC here, considering the STC don’t seem to know what this means.

    1. Just what has the STC done wrong? Should they have lied? Should we make excuses for “actors of calibre”? I wonder how many of the commentators here are familiar with the unique nature of Australia’s defamation laws that make it so difficult for a victim to come out and accuse anyone of this sort of behaviour. In this country the victim is in a much more difficult position when it comes to complaining. I am not going to judge this incident yet but the defamation/libel laws need to be changed.

  4. Yes it is sad that everything good can be turned inside out.
    As the authors write, the rehearsal room and stage heighten anxieties and reactions and even kindness can be misconstrued.
    I behoves us always to erect barriers to destructive behaviour but to loose allegations to the wide world before investigation, is stirring the pot for ugly results because we all have boundaries to behaviour and little sympathy with those of wider or narrower bounds.

  5. What a superb article. And June D above gets it spot on, too, with her withering dismissal of quite possibly the most dismal word in common usage just now: ‘appropriate’. Appropriate…dear god, to ‘what’, exactly? For ‘what’? Regarding ‘what’?

    Live theatre is – desperately needs to be – one of the few realms now where the full spectrum of humanity, in all its limitless majesty and complexity, can breathe, can live. Playwrights need to be able to write for flesh and blood, trusting in the thrilling idea that a good actor can take even the most reprehensible behaviours and somehow-charge them with higher, somehow-palatable truths about who we are. A great actor can find and make living the terrified compassion beneath the written nihilist psychopathy; the paralysing loneliness beneath the sexual thuggery; the vulnerability beneath the arrogance, the love beneath the hate. To see the most hideous – ‘inappropriate’…Jesus! – narrative abominations come unhideously alive, in real time, twenty feet from where you’re sitting – to me this is the key reason we have live theatre at all. (Well, that, and watching hot Cats dance skimpily about, obviously.)

    Actors can’t possibly pull off this kind of transcending miracle – this sublimest of story-telling ‘twists’ – if they’re constantly second-guessing themselves about behavioural ‘appropriateness’. They are their own working tools; bodily, physiologically, mentally…they need to be able to call on inmate reserves of not just compassion, decency, humour, tenderness, all things ‘nice’….but equally so…arrogance, anger (vicious rage!), latent inner violence (while simultaneously simulating actual physical violence!!), vituperative bitterness, boorish lust, amoral destructiveness, all the intoxicating mayhems of the soul…the thesp world (and especially the Weinsteinian faux-one) is crammed full of far too many shithouse actors who do it for all the wrong reasons, but the craft of acting remains about the most honourable creative vocation there is. The good ones walk a terrifying tightrope for us all. Thank god they do, frankly: and most of us are more than happy to cop the slightly higher-than-average duff-personality by-products (egotism/narcissism/mercurial moods etc) as necessary collateral components of a net dazzling job lot.

    But to give good actors the ‘appropriate’ (ha ha – see, June, we can all throw this pissantiest of words about) room to work their magic properly, directors, theatrical teams – which means entire company hierarchies – must establish and maintain a relentlessly, but tenderly, disciplined dramaturgy space. The popular press will pounce at the tiniest leakage, the smallest rupturing of the hermetic, the hallowed ‘actorly’ space. You shouldn’t be too sensitive about this, btw: the very thing that allows ‘no limits’ on-stage is that ruthless seal against the ‘off-stage’, and it’s up to theatre people, not the media, to police it. (Policing that divide – between acting and living – is ‘Hollywood’s’ biggest problem I suspect; perhaps even film in its entirety, now. A ‘movie star’ is an actor, sure, but something else, too, something far more banal. We live in a visually-incontinent age, in which all of us are auteurs of our own private strutting-stages. Me, try as I might I can’t now watch Spacey in HofC without…well, you know. The filmic fourth wall’s just about buggered, I reckon. Perhaps live theatre, like live music performance in the era of Spotify, will recapture its rightful place as the supreme mode of serious actorly career choice…we’re all of us film stars now. Wannabe an actor? Get up there and do it live…THAT’s acting, mate.)

    To theatre workers, then, a plea from a huge, coy fan: protect your working space. Defend it, with every ounce of your creative ambition and what street-cunning you can muster: save it, from those non-theatre types among us who would police its ‘appropriateness’. Don’t blame the press for trying to barge in, though. It’s kind of….part of their vocation to get under your skin, just as it’s part of yours to tell ‘em to fuck off. Make your oft-times ‘inappropriateness’ a virtue. It’s a shitty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Especially in these sanitised, tone-deaf, suicidally complacent times.

    That will mean, as this most excellent article drives home, and among much else: ensuring that cock-ups like the Rush one – and I suspect that’s all it was, an unthinking administrative fumble, perhaps even well-intentioned – don’t happen. Shouldn’t happen, ever. Protect the process. Protect the process, ruthlessly. It’s a private club, yours, and we’re just not invited.

    As for Rush? Well, I tentatively suggest that in taking (worldly, reactive, on-their-terms/stage) legal action he may turn out to have perhaps exacerbated the problem – of ‘leakage’ b/w the pristine actorly domain upon which he himself struts so sublimely, and the banal world of his mere stardom/reputation/prosaic existence, which in a way is its creative antithesis. If the accusations have been outrageously mischaracterised, then does he really need to ‘protect his reputation’? (Does he really need the $$??) And…against the slurs of the Murdochian reptiles?!? More like a badge of honour, I’d have thought. Conversely: if the accusations do have weight, are of base nature…well, then the Murdochians have their point. The damage to your domain would be real: as an actor Spacey was a true great; but he can no longer be rightly seen as this now, because he clearly wasn’t only acting, was he. His epic and real talent, catastrophically, is a victim of Hollywood, too; it’s a victim of the dramatic working world’s failure to police the crucial line between the the made-up human truth, and simply…the human truth. (It’s a pity there wasn’t some typically pithy Australian DA or gaffer on some early set, to kick him in the balls and tell him to concentrate on art, not arse. The indulgences of stardom, maybe the jobbing actor’s biggest OHS threat of all…)

    Anyway. So so sorry about the length of this comment. Take it as a gushing Xmas fan letter to Australian theatre, at its best as thrilling as any, anywhere, I loved this article for its deftness, its nuance, its obvious love of the writers’ own world. Long may you all protect it – from us ‘appropriating’ punters/hacks/quibblers/punishers…but from yourselves, too!

    Cheers for space, Daily Review.

  6. Was the Rush allegation handled badly? Obviously. Both the STC and the media outlets that reported the story – with all the bombast they could muster – have a case to answer and Rush has taken the appropriate legal steps to remedy the damage done to his reputation and, presumably, to his earning power. However, I find the thrust (yes, I know) of the rest of this piece difficult to parse. You state that you’re not making a special case for artists – and yet you are. You underline the high emotional stakes of creating work for performance as if the stakes were not high in say, finance, or any other field. Or in universities, perhaps. Time is taken for a long preamble suggesting that the internet is not necessarily a reliable source. If you’ll forgive the colloquial, duh. At no point does the piece validate the voices of women who are standing up against abuse. What is astonishing about the current times is that women are believed. Rather than being told to wait, that they are overstating the case, that there is a ‘grey area’ – women’s experience is being validated. Conflating the Rush case with the current climate of outing abusers as if the two were identical is just plain wrong. And that’s how this reads. The emotional overheating of the rehearsal room is not a defence for inappropriate behaviour – and that’s a word I have no problem with at all. We have yet to see the outcome of the Rush case. But to talk of ‘grey areas’, and the persistent use of ‘serious’ to separate the Rush case from the rest of the ‘Weinstein’ moment is to rely on the assumption that some cases of harassment or assault are more ‘serious’ than others. I really wish more thought had gone into this defence of Rush. It has implications far wider than criticism of the STC and bad journalistic bombast. Disappointing, quite frankly.

  7. I agree with most of what has been expressed in this piece. Mr Rush has been treated badly and unfortunately the damage has been done.

    There is a clear parallel with 18C….the alleged victim subjectively determines the crime. “I felt what he said was inappropriate and I can make an anonomous accusation keeping my identity secret while the accused is fully exposed to leaked media frenzy”.

    Does anybody see a parallel with Stalinist denunciations? Your neighbour does not like the shape of your head and denounces you as an enemy of the people!!

    Remember the old Gulag joke; Inmate A: “I got 15 years and I did nothing!!”….Inmate B: “You must have done something, you only get 10 years for doing nothing”!!

    Lefties who love Crikey should reflect on what the sons (and daughters etc) of 18C are wreaking on both Theatrical luvvies like Mr Rush and rightist running dogs like Bill Leak (RIP) in equal measure.

  8. This type of stereotyping has been going on for decades. Just think how many men have been called, “pedo” for merely talking to a child or simply for the way they look (round head and comb-over). There was a case in the early nineties of an older gent being charged with “raping a woman with his eyes”. He was daydreaming whilst sitting in a waiting room, when a young woman sat down in the chair he was absentmindedly staring at. She decided that he must have been gazing at her exposed navel. It was actually headed for court before being sorted out by the lawyers. I’ve personally been the victim of two false reports, one to a principal and one to the CIB. There are other incidents but I won’t bore you. Just lucky we’re not famous I guess. It’s a slippery slope though and “inappropriate behaviour” can be an interpretation ……. or misinterpretation.

  9. Thanks June, great comment. THAT word rankles…. it is so context bound as to be meaningless, as you say. The point you make about ‘serious sexual assault’ being equated with ‘inappropriate’ behaviour (whatever it means) is an important one. Thanks again.

  10. So GR is special? Shit behaviour should be acceptable? In just the same way you are all throwing your cloaks over the Rush puddle none of you have offered the same courtesy to the human being who made the complaint. I really hope it’s a guy so the person doesn’t get vilified as another lying woman who didn’t have the balls to handle the rough and tumble of the holy creative space, a cold rehearsal room with one of Australia’s most powerful actors. How dare s/he block his creativity by expecting decent behaviour. More critical thought please and less blaming the victim who has been courageous and less condemning them as the killer of artistic freedom. GR wears big boys pants and he had an opportunity to be. Role model but failed that test. Rather than this complaint being a moment for GF to critically self reflect and demonstrate some leadership GF chose defense and indignation. And now we all have to ponder the invention of false news & social media . Would love to see you write about recognition for indigenous Australians or something that actually means something

    1. Who’s GF?

      And not sure why you would suggest that two people who have particular thoughts on the subject of this article should write an article on “indigenous recognition or something that actually means something”.

      1. ‘Im saying write something that isn’t banal, in fake english accents that isn’t sukcin gup to GR. The article is not just ignorant but a suck up to a brilliant actor rather than a critical analysis of the human being.

        1. That’s interesting; I didn’t realise there was an audio version where you could hear the writers’ “fake English accents”.

  11. Jodi G makes a good point for perhaps the other side of her argument. Yes, women are now believed and for some ‘validated’. This implies that men are ‘not believed’ especially where women are involved. When one class or gender is always believed and their targets not believed, the potential for abuses is bleedingly obvious. Some of history’s tyrannies and terrors have roots in that heinous denial of natural justice. That is simply that everyone is entitled to face their accuser and have the facts tested in an open court whether of public opinion or for criminal claims – our (dare I say British) justice system.

  12. Check your confirmation bias. What if SMH broke the story? Would this make it more legitimate and less mudsling-y? And it’s clear STC didn’t ‘offer GR’s up’ but were asked directly…I have so many other issues with this piece – you have to be accurate.

  13. …just think: theatre in Australia is predominately a white, male space. And as we all know nothing inappropriate ever happens in a cultural space dominated by…white males. I mean perish the thought….

    And what’s more our national living treasures are naturally…blameless. I mean to say…as if?

    Pip pip. Jolly good show. As you were. Carry on. What?

  14. This is a terrible article, one that beats down on any victim that after their ordeal has the strength to speak up. Telling the victims that that there experience is mixed up in some “grey area”.
    Trying to their fellow man by saying these stories are bullshit or have no substance because they have come via the internet or the media. Social media has become the only platform for people who have been oppressed for so long to speak up. Now you wish to take that from under them too.
    To say “the theatre is a place of profound vulnerability, a place where overstepping the lines of normal behaviour is unavoidable, and sometimes encouraged.” This “normal behaviour” is within a deeply misogynistic structure, built to protect and serve the men within this industry and keep the women in their place and is quite obviously being protected by the men that have written this article.

  15. Inappropriate behavior could be anything , and they don’t inform him or his management don’t follow any of their in house policies for complaints. Yet inform the media 2 years after the event. Try being in his shoes

  16. I find this article very confusing. There is one point that I agree with – that the STC should not have offered an answer to the journalist when asked to verify that a complaint had been made against Geoffrey Rush. I also agree that the reporting in the original article and over subsequent days had elements of “mud spraying” about it. The article also provides a reasonably thorough, though not complete, account of what now constitutes public knowledge in relation to the original incident.

    However, for an article that affects a voice of balance and reason – a “corrective” of sorts – there are some glaring omissions and biases. Firstly, the authors do not seem at all interested in the negative consequences that this whole episode might have had on the person who reported the alleged inappropriate behaviour. While Rush’s reputation has undoubtedly suffered (rightly or wrongly – as the authors point out, based on the available evidence, it is too soon for the general public to judge), what of the other party, who for their own reasons and for all we know the best intentions asked that the complaint remain anonymous? We can’t know what position they were in that led them to choose to report it in this particular way, or their hopes and intentions in making the report. And what of other women (and, less frequently, men) who are experiencing harassment in a theatre rehearsal room right now or in the future who will now think twice about reporting the incident to management? It betrays a certain kind of bias that this negative outcome was not given any consideration by the authors. Make no mistake, though the complainant is not named, the combined media stories effectively “out” the individual who made the complaint. Rush may well be experiencing a “trial by association” – but so is the other party.

    What I find really troubling about this article is the way in which the authors posit their own “trial by association” – of sorts – of any actor whose (belittling, frightening, stomach-churning) experience of inappropriate behaviour and/or harassment in a rehearsal room can be explained away as a he-said she-said (or perhaps he-experienced, she-experienced) narrative existing in some kind of “grey area” specific to the “profound vulnerability” of theatre.

    I simply don’t know how to make sense of this passage, for example:

    “That is not to say that actors are exceptional people entitled to special consideration under the law. But it should be recognised that acting is a job that comes with a very particular set of difficulties and risks.”

    What is meant by this “but”? What is the particular set of difficulties and risks precisely, and how might these difficulties and risks affect any actors’ consideration in relation to the law, or for that matter, ethics, if that is what the authors are trying to assert? The authors are arguing a special case, and as an experienced professional theatre director I just don’t understand what they are talking about. Is it that two actors have to play characters who are intimate with each other? That a director asks an actor to embody a character undergoing a traumatic experience and that this can bring up real emotions? That violent, transgressive, sexual behaviour is embodied in the fictional world of a play? These surely can’t be the particular “difficulties and risks”? Dealing with all this in a professional and ethical manner is the stuff of Acting and Directing 101 – you should be learning it in the first months of drama school, or wherever else you take your first steps into the profession. If not, that represents a failure of the industry and its institutions, not the “profound vulnerabilities” of a rehearsal room. So again, what are the “difficulties and risks”? Is there something about the cut and thrust of putting a play on (a play, for goodness sake, not a UN peace-keeping mission, open heart surgery or an undercover drugs sting, a play!) that means everyone suddenly gets confused about what constitutes inappropriate touching, language or behaviour?

    As a (white, male, straight, able, middle-class, 40-something) professional theatre director of nearly 20 years experience, I feel a responsibility to say that these authors do not speak for all directors or theatre artists when they argue a “grey area” in which it “is sometimes unclear what is appropriate behaviour and what is unwelcome, unwise or going too far.” This idea is grounded in deeply entrenched systems of gender and power. From the conversations I have been having with actors who have experienced harassment and intimidation over the years, it is very clear to both the perpetrator and the victim what is appropriate and inappropriate, at the time that it is happening and/or very soon after. This “grey area”, “difficulty and risk” line of argument is precisely why a lot of young artists leave the performing arts at the start of a promising career, suffer illness, or develop a tough shell, a high tolerance for bullshit and spend a lot of their meagre income on psychotherapy. It’s also why, anecdotally, so much inappropriate behaviour remains unreported. It’s just too professionally risky, painful, sometimes traumatic or even just emotionally draining – and the evidence has shown time and time again that the victim is the one who will suffer the most through the fallout of an act of disclosure.

    Perhaps if the authors could furnish some examples of these “grey areas” and “creative vortexes”, it may help shed light on the matter. Once they have done this, I would invite them to demonstrate how any of these examples may in turn shed light on the very specific example of the case in point – the matter involving Rush – the substance of which the authors themselves state the public knows very little about.

    The authors rhetorically ask at one point, “Are we making judgments based on knowledge?” I would ask them to apply such a question to their own judgments – judgments about the apparently mysterious and murky workings of theatre making which they present as insider facts.

    Concepts like the “grey area”, the “creative vortex” and “unavoidable overstepping” – constructed and maintained by those in positions of administrative and symbolic power – obfuscate in order to maintain the status quo, a status quo that good people outside the world of show business are being provided, in articles such as this, and in this important moment of #metoo, every reason to be suspicious about.

    Yes – “the handling of the Rush complaint deserves … time and justice” – (doesn’t everything?!) – but it’s better that this process happens unencumbered by spurious notions of the theatre as a workplace in which “overstepping the lines of normal behaviour is unavoidable, and sometimes encouraged”, especially when “lines of normal behaviour” seems to mean things like appropriate touching and the ethical use of power.

    1. Thank you Chris Kohn for such an insightful analysis of the article. I hope the authors take your comments on board.

  17. The ‘Rush’ story and the resulting comments on the Daily Review etc
    are a classic example of what Lippmann was talking about.

    We actually know next to zip, nada, about what actually happened or even if ‘anything’ really happened at all.

    Yet we have thousands of words- lots of heat and smoke- in comments about ‘something or other’.

  18. Hear, hear, Chris Kohn. This article (and some of the comments that it prompted) is deeply discouraging, not least for the dishonest portrait it paints of human relationships in the theatre.

    The same principles apply in the theatre as in every other profession: the idea that some kind of “creative vortex” permits treating other people badly is a toxic romantic myth. The same myth has, of course, been well exploited by abusive people in every industry.

    One may explore all kinds of human behaviour in imaginative ways without feeling the need to compromise one’s personal ethics: I don’t, for example, presume that a crime writer needs to be a mass murderer in the service of their art. To confuse the imaginative portrayal of abusive behaviour with the abusive treatment of colleagues is self-interested ethical obfuscation of the first order.

    And yes, as Chris says, if we are to suspend judgment in the interests of fairness in the particular case of Geoffrey Rush because there is so little public knowledge, I would think this principle would apply to the complainant equally as much as to Rush. I can’t see that any presumption of innocence has been permitted to the complainant who, as we all know, had no desire for this to go public. Certainly, whatever was the basis of the complaint seems to have been dismissed with utter certainty, even though the authors agree there is no basis for judgment either way.

    Lastly, I’ll just note the irony of an argument that purportedly attacks stereotypes, which itself is based on some of the most poisonous stereotypes we have about making art.

  19. Spare a thought for the person who took a complaint to the STC management about an actor’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’ but did not wish to be named nor have the actor concerned identified. Thanks to the blundering and inept response by the STC to a journalist’s inquiry both are or will soon be thrust into the spotlight. Rush claims he was never told of the complaint so like you and me, he does not know exactly what it is he is supposed to have done.But apparently, many of you do. The bulk of the above responses indicate that he must be guilty because any allegation of inappropriate behaviour must be true if made by a woman. Where are the army of women supporting the victim with similar allegations? Where is the corroborating evidence? The assumptions and presumptions of something sordid, something lurid having taken place are offensive and INAPPROPRIATE because they deny the alleged perpetrator the chance to defend himself other than through the courts. You who have already decided Rush is guilty tell us why the ‘victim’ did not what to be identified or THE PERPETRATOR named. If he/she is not after revenge why are you sticking the boots in?

    1. What on earth are you talking about? Who is sticking the boots in? Very few people have come out to condemn Rush. There is no evidence that he’s lost any jobs. The MTC have indicated they will honour their contract with him. No one of any profile has come out demanding that he be blacklisted. There has been far more criticism directed at the STC and the news outlet that ran the story. I’ve seen far more commentary on social media, the mainstream press and by other theatre professionals about how hard done by he’s been by the whole saga. There has been hardly any public condemnation of him because nobody knows what he’s supposed to have done. Which is another reason (Chris Kohn, Jodi G and Alison Croggon are spot on in their comments) why I found this article so poorly argued and unnecessary. It’s like the writers are tone deaf to what has actually happened. There has been no “Rush to judgement”. If anything, the opposite has happened and the most common public perception of Rush is that he’s the victim here.

  20. Having read through these comments (I missed this article initially) it seems to me that one thing no-one takes into account is the behaviour of the Tabloids themselves. There must have been a way for the victim to have their say and be fairly assessed by the appropriate authorities, and allow Rush adequate response- The Daily Telegraph and other tabloids is not that authority. According to Mediawatch, even fellow tabloids like the Herald Sun urged The DT not to print the accusations as they are potentially libelous, but they went ahead anyway with the same sort of childish headlines and imagery that would probably appeal to 10 year olds. I have little sympathy for the Weinsteins and his ilk, who allegedly have a history of outrageous and persistent sexual abuse, but this is one instance where the complainant themselves wanted the issue dealt with quietly. It could mean they feel pressured not to go further- in which case I hope they do get justice- or it could mean it was a minor thing that could have been patched up internally before the involvement of a sensationalist gutter press. It seems pretty clear that Rush, unless further independent and verifiable evidence comes to light, is hardly a serial predator. I admire Rush (I loved Kevin Spacey’s work) but would not be happy if it transpired he or the STC were using their position to silence a victim. But there seems little evidence of that so far, and a lot of evidence that the Daily Telegraph has a lot to answer for.

  21. This article is confusing and weird. Everyone involved deserves better. This is not the first time that Walter Lippmann has been cited in defense of a reactionary agenda. You know what, guys? Even in the throes of the ‘creative vortex’ (????) you can still be on the right side of history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *