Production company issues apology over McLachlan allegations

Christie Whelan-Browne with Erika Heynatz two actresses for Kate McClymont story. 29th December 2017 Photo by Louise Kennerley

As two more cast members have come forward alleging the producers of the 2014 Rocky Horror Show ignored their complaints about bullying and intimidation, the company has issued an apology.

The two, who have asked not to be identified, were angered about comments made by the Gordon Frost Organisation, denying it had ever received a complaint, either formally or informally, against actor Craig McLachlan. The company, which has stood down McLachlan from the current show, claimed it was not aware of complaints until they were revealed by a Fairfax Media and ABC investigation on Monday.

One of the new cast members who has come forward said McLachlan had a blazing row with the stage managers during the show and was late back on stage for his part: “So he came on the wrong way, at the wrong time, very fast and very aggressively and ran into me.”

The cast member was injured and had to take time off work and was expecting an apology from McLachlan.

It never came.

Instead McLachlan’s behaviour escalated. He was hurting his fellow cast members during the show, grabbing them by the arm or the face.

The cast member went to a female manager to report feeling unsafe and threatened on stage, and that no one was taking any action to protect them from McLachlan. The manager “was passive, showed no reaction and then said, ‘well, what do you want me to do?'”

Like others, the complaint went nowhere. A second cast member complained to the same manager about ongoing bullying from a senior member of the crew. That also fell on deaf ears.

Erika Heynatz, Christie Whelan Browne and Angela Scundi, the three actors who have come forward to detail allegations of indecent assault and bullying against McLachlan, also blamed GFO for failing to act.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, John Frost, the managing director of GFO, said it was “concerning and distressing” to him that the women “did not feel as though they could report these issues in 2014”.

“I have no reason to disbelieve anyone who says they spoke to one of our managers in 2014, however none of our managers were aware of any issues that warranted further action at the time, and all of our employees were aware of the procedures of making a complaint,” he said.

Mr Frost said his company “will strive to do better” and that “I will be personally instructing all of our managers to listen and act decisively” in order to provide a safe work place.

Whelan Browne has insisted she was in tears when she told Mr Frost how frightened she was of McLachlan. In his statement, Mr Frost admitted seeing Whelan Browne backstage but “I cannot remember any discussion around Craig”, he said.

Meanwhile, two other women have come forward alleging McLachlan’s unwelcome advances.

One woman said that in 2014 she was working behind the desk at an Adelaide tanning salon when McLachlan walked in. She recognised him from the hit TV show Neighbours.

“He was extremely friendly and flirtatious straight away, asking me a lot of questions about myself, was I single, how long had I been working there,” she said.

She said he also complimented her on her tan and smile, and joked about “how many beautiful women there were in Adelaide”.

When he’d finished getting his tan, she said, he continued with his flirtatious talk, complete with “intense eye contact” to the young woman.

“Then out of nowhere he said to me, ‘I am very sorry but I just have to do this’.”

They were the only people in the room and, she said, he walked around to the back of the reception desk where she was sitting.

“He grabbed my face in both hands and passionately kissed me, tongue included.

“I was incredibly shocked and flustered. I just remember laughing awkwardly the rest of the conversation with him, he was probably in the salon another 10 to 15 minutes … [it] is a bit of a blur but I do remember asking him if he normally went around kissing strange girls in stores. And his reply was ‘only the beautiful ones’.”

The woman said the tanning salon often had TV and music stars come in and that they were invariably low-key and professional, but McLachlan’s behaviour made her feel “very uncomfortable” and left her “shaking for the rest of the day”. She immediately called her mother and her manager.

He called later to ask her to meet him for a drink, which she declined. “He’s one of those relatively famous people who believe they can get away with behaving like that,” she said.

But when she saw him dismissing the claims of the three actresses who made allegations against of inappropriate behaviour, she wanted to back-up their claims.

“This was just a normal day. I was sitting there doing my job. There was no encouragement from my end. For him to feel that’s appropriate behaviour to someone he’s only met 20 minutes ago ??? shows it’s not about the role he was playing.”

She said he wasn’t in character when he took the liberty of kissing her without encouragement or permission, instead, “he was Craig McLachlan”.

Another young woman also alleged an unpleasant encounter with McLachlan in 2008 when she was working on City Homicide and had to drive McLachlan to the airport.

Asked how long she had worked on the production, the woman replied that she was leaving. “Every time I start a job working with a gorgeous woman, she leaves,” McLachlan joked.

He went on to tell her he was working on a script that involved a priest having sex with a 17-year-old girl.

“You’re not 17 are you?” he asked. She replied that she was 22. “Perfect, I love 22-year-olds,” McLachlan replied. She said he then proceeded to detail a sexual relationship he’d had with a 22-year-old woman he’d met in London when he was 38.

The woman said McLachlan turned the car’s air-conditioning vents away from himself, so she turned the air-conditioning down, assuming it was too cold for him. He then said, “Did you see my nipples getting hard?” When she said “no”, he said, “I was hoping yours would be, can we turn it up any higher?”

“When we arrived at the airport and I’d pulled in to drop him off, he leaned across to the driver’s side and kissed me on both cheeks. We’d literally just met, so any kiss on the cheek was a surprise, but the second one was particularly unexpected and I said, ‘oh, two’. He replied, ‘It’s because I’ve been living in Europe too long, plus it gives me a second shot’. He then laughed, took his bags, and left.”

The woman said she didn’t want “to make trouble” overreacting but she advised the production company in writing with a detailed account of what occurred.

“In the letter, I asked them to make sure he wasn’t put alone in cars with any other young women.”

She said the company replied, not in writing but by phone. She said while her bosses expressed concern about her wellbeing she felt “they were pretty keen for me to not say anything else”.

Mr McLachlan did not respond to questions about these incidents.

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