The extraordinary and disgraceful destruction of Geoffrey Rush’s personal reputation continues apace, the most recent contribution being a piece on RN Breakfast — an interview this morning between Fran Kelly and Adelaide Festival director Neil Armfield, which began with a pleasant canter around the 2018 Festival and the Armfield-directed Brett Dean piece Hamlet, The Opera (which has been very successful, and sounds ghastly), before turning very dark indeed.
Kelly began with the general allegations — one, of alleged “inappropriate conduct” once, in an STC production of King Lear — and then, almost unbelievably, asked Armfield (the director of the production), to comment on “what he saw”. Armfield, in a tone that quite understandably went from ice-cold to sulphuric acid, first tried to defer any discussion at all, then corrected Kelly on facts relating to the accusations, before having to shut it down again, as Kelly returned to it.
Nothing indicates more clearly the potential injustices of this process than the manner in which Rush has been treated. A theatre company releasing two-year-old allegations, of one possible event once, giving no details to the accused, and with no regard to the very limited number and corroborations of the alleged event, shows one very important thing: your whole organisation can be devoted to the production of culture that produced The Crucible, Othello, Hedda Gabler and innumerable other pieces which portray the power of groupthink crookedness of the human soul, and the potential for life to be motivated by deceit, revenge and destruction — and the first instance that comes along with a possible element of that, you fold like a cardboard flat of Elsinore Castle.
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Sooner or later, as the US writer Erin Gloria Ryan noted, this process of trial-by-media is going to produce a discrediting case — one in which an accusation has been cut from whole cloth, and motivated by the less creditable of human motives. Cowardly organisations, and a compliant media — RN Breakfast, in this case, responding to higher demands for a new crassness, one suspects — will ensure it. When that happens, the process will reverse. You’d think, in a discussion of events around a production of King Lear, that there would be the realisation that, beneath all the moralising, life is a power play. The Daily Telegraph put Rush on the cover for culture war reasons, a blow against “the elites”. What’s the excuse of the “elite” institutions who have been part of this, and appear to be unshaped in their conduct by the culture they are established (and well-funded) to produce?