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Craig McLachlan claims: The day of reckoning is here

The explosive report by Fairfax and the ABC this morning of allegations against actor Craig McLachlan marks the arrival, with a thud, of a reckoning for the Australian live entertainment industry.

The long and detailed allegations by Christie Whelan Browne, one of the biggest names in musical theatre (made with two other female colleagues) against McLachlan during the 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show, mark a turning point for the industry.

Unlike the recent, anonymous allegation of inappropriate behaviour made against Geoffrey Rush during a production of King Lear at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015 and its subsequent inept handling by the company, today’s allegations leave no other response but to be dealt with squarely.

By going public with their allegations, Whelan Browne and her co-performers from the show, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, have signalled to the industry that allegations of sexual misconduct in theatre have to be taken seriously whatever the standing of the complainant or the accused in the cast – or the industry.

As the MEAA Actors’ Equity survey of its members found last year, 40% to 50% of its respondents had experienced sexual harassment including “unwanted familiarity, leering and unpleasant jokes”, 14% said they had been sexually assaulted, 11% had been the victims of physical assault and 10% had been stalked by a co-worker.  The report also found 9% had experienced indecent exposure.

Despite this, the survey found 58 per cent of respondents said they were rarely or never told how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace and 47% said that when it was reported, the issues were handled poorly or worsened.

The public stand by Whelan Browne, Heynatz and Scundi will change that by encouraging others not to remain silent.

Today’s revelations will likely send the widespread industry into a panic as it is forced to deal with, rather than evade or hide from dealing with complaints of harassment.

The fact that the Rocky Horror producers, the Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO), has not (so far) responded to the ABC/Fairfax report is perhaps a sign of confusion in how to deal with the public airing of harassment allegations in its workplaces. The ABC reports that lawyers for the GFO have been resistant to requests from the three women for an investigation into their claims and the GFO has threatened to sue the women for defamation.

McLachlan has strenuously denied all allegations against him, but it is hard to imagine that the current tour of Rocky Horror, in which he stars as Dr Frank-N-Furter and which has just begun in Adelaide, can continue until the allegations are dealt with.

Today is a first for the live theatre industry and its implications will be far reaching. Producers and theatre company managements will now have to deal thoroughly with complaints of workplace misconduct and not simply pay lip service to them by publishing well-meaning policies on their websites.

UPDATE: GFO and McLachan agreed later today that he withdraw from the production pending an outcome of an investigation.

Main image: Christie Whelan-Browne left and Craig McLachlan right in The Rocky Horror Show in 2014.

 

13 responses to “Craig McLachlan claims: The day of reckoning is here

  1. Our society has endured centuries of the powers that be abusing thier power, wirch hunts, exucutions and imprisonment without due process or fair trials……millions died throughout history to earn the basic human right for trial and both sides of the story to be told…….im sorry the #meetoo movement is wrong, just like sexual assault is. There must be a more modern balanced approach to all this, not to go back to the days before basic human rights. Only once proven guilty should one be punished, not before.

  2. I agree. These women should speak up at time. No excuses. They are just looking for attention and money. Terrible country! Strange way people deal with things today.

  3. Brittany,
    You poor precious, privileged person – the victim full of excuses.
    And sexist to boot ( … being a man….), and biased (.. these ladies ..).
    What evidence do you have they are ladies? Female perhaps …..?

    What a joke this whole saga is! Where is natural justice?
    What are the motives of these accusers of going to the media with their accusations? They are scumbags.

    The world is full of dishonest and malicious people – male and female. Get used to to it. Grow up and be an adult. These accusers behave like they in kindergarten.
    Precious, helpless(?) little princesses who squeal for attention.

    I don’t know the truth in this story but who does?
    How DARE you assume that what these accusers say is true!!!

  4. Robert – as a woman who has been the victim of unwanted foul, leering, crude behaviour by powerful men more than once, I am appalled and outraged by your idiotic comments. Why didn’t I report it in my first job at 16? Because where I worked was a boy’s club and I desperately needed the job so that I could save up to leave my dysfunctional family home. Why didn’t I at least tell my mum? Because she would have told my dad, he would have marched into my workplace and assaulted my bosses and I would have lost my job – and therefore the only means of escape available to me at that tender age. Why didn’t I report it the next time when I was all grown up and no longer one of your friend Steven’s “blushing near-virgins”? Because my then-husband was dying of cancer, the last thing I could deal with at that time was another big problem and the last thing I had the energy for then, was job-hunting. Your rude, insensitive and bombastic comments fail to consider what it is to be the victim of this type of abusive behaviour – and being a man, you will never get even the weeniest bit close to comprehending the way that being treated like that can disempower a person – for all sorts of invisible reasons other than the two that I have given here. By the way – these ladies DID actually speak up at the time but were shut down by the ever-present cover-ups and carpet-sweeping. How DARE you. Oh yes – that’s right – “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”: or in Redneck, which appears to be your preferred language, “Airheads and dimwits open their yaps when people with half a brain cell and some insight, keep theirs shut”.

    1. Bravo Brittany. I too was outraged by the words of both Robert and Steven. Their responses to this story, which demonstrated that they obviously didn’t take the time to research before making the usual assumptions, show exactly why women have been reluctant to make complaints in the past. Maybe, Robert & Steve, you would like to read the ABC report, which is readily available online, for details of this matter. Maybe then you might just feel a little less sympathy for Craig McLachlan and his future career.

  5. The percentages quoted by Actors Equity will actually apply to all walks of life ,all workplaces , where men and women work side by side so this is not new stuff , it will always happen ,men see it as harmless fun and women don’t , I think Maclachlin is an extrovert and a clown to boot ,his work in Doctor series on the ABC show him to be an excellent actor, I cannot work out why when instances of this kind happen that the so called victims don’t protest on the spot instead of whining years later, they are not little kids these women are all adults , they love trial by media these days , look at Kevin Spaceys case , one of our premier actors , “NO charges Laid” yet his career is slowing !! I hope Craigs career is not ruined by this! Sorry girls should have protested when it happened

  6. Oh, what a load of malarky from these blushing near-virgins. They are appearing in a show about SEX in all of its glorious varieties where the star is an exhibitionist, crossdressing, hypersexual from Transilvania. They get a look at his bits about twenty times a week and then cry ‘Wolf’ because he jokes around when the curtain goes down. He didn’t offer to jump their bones against their determined resistance.Most likely Craig accidentally/probably flashed his willy, (Probably), and leered at them with an evil grin. I say they are full of false modesty, fraudulence and are attention seekers to boot.

    1. He also allegedly traced one of the women’s genitals with his finger while she could do nothing about it- that on it’s own is sexual assault. I’d imagine getting aroused in a stageplay like RH would be an occupational hazard, but that and the sexual aspects of the play in general are not an excuse for unwanted flashing/touching no matter how innocent or otherwise the women were.

  7. “two of the women have made separate reports about McLachlan’s alleged behaviour to the Victorian Police.”
    That’s one of the important differences to the ‘STC- G. Rush’ story. Because the complaints are public ( and quite specific) they can be investigated and tested and if proven true , can be acted upon.

    And that points to a intrinsic procedural weakness, in the system run by the STC:
    The procedural problem with anonymous complaints is that the respondent- accused cannot be informed of the complaint – because that would reveal the identity of the complainant etc. Therefore anonymous complaints cannot be properly investigated-tested and if found true , be dealt with. (Natural Justice demands that you must have both sides of the story before you can reach a judgement.)

    The STC system seems more like a ‘procedure’ that is more about the STC management saying that ‘they have a procedure[ to deal with complaints]’ than a system designed to actually ,do anything real world, about complaints

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