Craig McLachlan has consistently denied the allegations of indecent assault. (AAP: James Ross)
Australian actor Craig McLachlan threatened to end a cast member’s career after she complained about a lingering kiss on stage, a witness has told the actor’s indecent assault hearing.
- Actor Brendan Irving said the cast member told him about the alleged on-stage kiss
- He told the court Mr McLachlan then allegedly said he could make sure she never worked again
- The contested hearing was told Mr McLachlan had permission to “ad lib” during the performance
Mr McLachlan is facing a contested hearing before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court over allegations he indecently assaulted four women during a 2014 theatre production.
The 53-year-old was charged in January with 16 counts of indecent assault and assault.
On Tuesday, actor Brendan Irving told the court that he learned of concerns about Mr McLachlan’s alleged on-stage conduct shortly after he finished working on a theatre production with the former Neighbours star.
Mr Irving said a colleague told him over drinks just weeks after the production ended about an on-stage kiss she shared with Mr McLachlan.
“She told me that there had been an incident on stage where she felt like he lingered on a kiss for too long,” Mr Irving said.
He told the court Mr McLachlan had threatened to end her career when the cast member confronted him.
“He turned around and said something along the lines of: ‘Pull yourself together, who do you think you are talking to, I could make sure you never work again’,” Mr Irving recalled her saying.
He said his friend had considered taking “formal action” but decided it was not serious enough.
Theatre director Leah Howard denied there was a culture of blacklisting actors if they complained.
Asked his opinion of the former Dr Blake star, Mr Irving said he found Mr McLachlan to be a kind, generous and supportive actor who “went to extra effort” to make him comfortable when they worked together.
Court told director demanded apology
Ms Howard told the court she asked Mr McLachlan to apologise to a fellow cast member when she got upset, alleging he had roughly grabbed her jaw during a performance.
Ms Howard said the woman was “pretty upset” and complained that the actor had “grabbed my face hard out there”.
The court heard on the night there were sound problems and wardrobe malfunctions and Mr McLachlan had been frustrated about the quality of the performance that evening.
Ms Howard said she took the complaint about the alleged assault seriously and asked him to apologise to the cast member after the show.
“I said ‘you scared her. You should talk to her and you need to apologise’,” Ms Howard testified.
“He said he would and that he was sorry.”
Mr McLachlan has denied all allegations, which include kissing women without consent, pressing his penis against a woman’s back, running his hand between a woman’s legs, and straddling a woman’s lap without their consent.
The contested hearing was told the show had a number of staged kisses between the characters, but Mr McLachlan had permission to “ad lib” and “break the fourth wall” and played up to the audience.
Ms Howard said introducing a kiss “wouldn’t have been outside the realm” of the show.
Asked by defence lawyer Stuart Littlemore about “backstage shenanigans”, Ms Howard agreed it was all gleeful and in good fun.
She said the accusations levelled at the Gold Logie-winner had divided the theatre community.
“Our industry is very small and we are like a family and it’s very intimate and we look after each other, and it’s hard when things like this happen,” Ms Howard told the court.
Prosecutor Matt Fisher asked if she supported Mr McLachlan.
“I support everyone in this situation. I just want everyone to be okay,” she replied.