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Actor sues for $2m over alleged Rocky Horror sex abuse

Christie Whelan Browne is claiming $2 million in damages from a theatrical firm.

Christie Whelan Browne is claiming $2 million in damages from a theatrical firm. Photo: AAP

An actor alleging the theatrical company behind the 2014 Rocky Horror Show production ignored her claims of sexual harassment and abuse has sued for $2 million in damages.

Christie Whelan Browne is pursuing Oldfield Entertainment for the sum in a Federal Court case alleging victimisation after she complained about the behaviour of cast-mate Craig McLachlan.

She played the lead role of Janet in the musical comedy, while McLachlan played Frank-N-Furter.

In her Federal Court pleadings, Whelan Browne said Oldfield ignored her complaints about McLachlan and failed to provide a safe working environment, resulting in physical and mental injury.

Subsequent events including public media statements and a defamation trial brought by McLachlan are claimed to have destroyed her reputation in the theatrical sphere, leading her to take work in TV instead.

The alleged abuse and harassment include McLachlan kissing her breasts and body on stage, touching her in a sexual manner, forcefully grabbing her face on stage and making sexualised comments about her and other cast members.

Whelan Browne’s pleadings said she felt threatened by McLachlan and she was left feeling disgusted, offended and humiliated after the behaviour.

In 2020, McLachlan was cleared of criminal charges that he indecently assaulted four women during the production. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Whelan Browne said Oldfield failed to take steps to prevent the conduct and condoned or encouraged it by hiring the actor with an expectation he would ooze “risque charm” and have “bucketloads of sex appeal”.

Despite complaints to director John Frost, resident director Leah Howard and stage director Dwan Delker, McLachlan was allowed to continue working at Oldfield, performing the role of Frank-N-Furter for the 2014 and 2015 runs of the show, the documents said.

Whelan Browne said she was victimised and sexually discriminated against as the cast, crew and directors became cold towards her.

After refusing to take action and denying there was any evidence of the actor’s claims, the firm threatened her with defamation action, the pleadings said.

Oldfield appeared to be “exclusively focused” on protecting McLachlan’s interests, they added.

Whelan Browne then went public to various media outlets with a number of other complainants.

Oldfield’s response to those media reports was false, she claims, with the firm saying it was “shocked” and did not previously know of the allegations.

Whelan Browne is seeking $1.5 million in damages plus $500,000 in aggravated damages, saying Oldfield’s conduct subjected her to online trolling as well as distress, anxiety and embarrassment.

This included through defamation proceedings filed by McLachlan against her, Fairfax Media and the ABC which were later dropped part-way through a jury trial.

“[I] was subjected to online trolling including death threats regularly throughout the proceedings and continue to be subjected to such attacks,” Whelan Brown wrote in her pleadings.

She said evidence given by Oldfield’s management during the defamation trial showed the firm was aware of her complaints and allegations of harassment and abuse but did nothing.

In the Federal Court earlier this month, lawyers for Oldfield indicated the firm would seek to have the civil case dismissed.

Mediation has been planned for November and the case will return to court on December 12.

– AAP

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