Rush’s co-star Robyn Nevin denies telling actress: ‘Oh, I thought Geoffrey had stopped that’

A King Lear co-star and friend of Geoffrey Rush sent a text message to Eryn Jean Norvill the day after The Daily Telegraph’s first story concerning claims of inappropriate behaviour asking how she was and saying “I hope you’ll be protected”, a court has heard.

Geoffrey Rush and Eryn Jean Norvill in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear

Renowned actress Robyn Nevin also told her to “keep close to friends” while Norvill said to Nevin in reply: “I’m frightened….I never asked for any of this. It’s awful Robyn.”

The text exchanged emerged during the sixth day of Rush’s defamation action The Daily Telegraph publisher, Nationwide News, and its reporter Jonathon Moran.

Rush is suing the publication over stories late last year which said he engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” while appearing in a production of King Lear on a Sydney stage.

The actor claims the stories portrayed him as a “pervert” and a “sexual predator”.

Nevin repeatedly told the court that she did not witness any inappropriate behaviour from Rush during the production of King Lear in 2015/16.

But she said Norvill had told her during a production of All My Sons in the months following King Lear that she’d had “trouble with Geoffrey” during the Shakespeare play.

The Daily Telegraph barrister Tom Blackburn SC put it to Nevin that Norvill had confided in her that it was “inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature”.

Nevin responded angrily: “She most definitely did not say that. It’s appalling that you could put words in my mouth.”

Robyn Nevin

Nevin, 76, said Norvill became tearful during a mid-2016 conversation she had with the actress during a production of All My Sons, in which they were both appearing.

Robyn Nevin and Eryn Jean Norvill exchanged text messages in the wake of the Daily Telegraph stories

The play took place at the same theatre where King Lear had finished five months earlier.

Nevin told Sydney’s Federal Court that Norvill had said the venue reminded her of the “trouble” she’d had “with Geoffrey” during King Lear.

Nevin, who played The Fool in King Lear, said she was unable to obtain more details from Norvill because “someone else came into the room” and she didn’t want to pursue the conversation in front of another person.

She denied suggestions from Blackburn that Norvill had mentioned sexual harassment. Nevin said she assumed it concerned problems Norvill had been having playing the role of Cordelia in King Lear.

Nevin also rejected that she had told Norvill: “Oh I thought Geoffrey had stopped doing that. Poor Jane”. Jane Menelaus is the wife of Rush.

The court heard of text messages exchanged between Nevin and Norvill in the days after the Telegraph’s ‘King Leer; front page story on November 30.

On December 1, Nevin had told Norvill in a text: “Oh dear girl are you ok?….it’s nasty, I hope you’ll be protected, I’m sure you will be. If you need anything just ask.”

Blackburn asked Nevin why, if she thought the claims against Rush were “baseless”, did she not tell the actress.

Rush was a close friend and the allegation a “serious” one, he said.

Nevin said the “damage had been done” and she was concerned about the “well-being” of Norvill.

She said she was angry at Sydney Theatre Company rather than Nevin, arguing the lives of both Rush and Norvill had been “damaged”.

“I knew she would be in a terrible state,” Nevin said, adding that Norvill was appearing in a production at the time.

Barrister Tom Blackburn leaves Sydney Federal Court this afternoon. He is due to open The Daily Telegraph case tomorrow

Questioned repeatedly by Blackburn of the timetable of events, Nevin was unable to say when or how she became aware Norvill was the complainant, telling the court she was “notorious” for her “inability to judge time”.

Blackburn put it to Nevin that she knew it was Norvill when she sent the text on December 1 because of their previous conversation during All My Sons.

He also put it to her that she believed what Norvill was saying about Rush.

Nevin denied she believed Norvill, adding later in the cross examination that she believed the younger actor “needed help and support”.

Earlier, Nevin said Rush was always “positive and cheerful” during rehearsals and was an “uplifting presence” as a “leader of a company”.

His “buoyancy, sense of optimism and general cheerfulness” was in keeping with his “enthusiasm for the work”, she added.

The court heard from Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe and BAFTA winner Judy Davis.

Davis, a long-time friend of Rush, spoke of the actor’s “fine reputation”.

Asked about conversations in theatrical circle since the Telegraph’s stories, Davis said: “They have said his career is finished.”

Judy Davis

Rush strenuously denied allegations that he touched and made “lewd gestures” towards Norvill during almost three days in the witness stand last week.

He said it was possible his hand may have inadvertently touched her breast as he rejected suggestions it was deliberate.

The Telegraph, which is using truth as its defense, is due to open its case tomorrow with Norvill expected to give evidence.


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