Home /  News /  New Zealand

Theatre Company Backs Casting Convicted Rapist In Lead Role

The theatre group says it has a safety plan to ensure everyone involved in the play is looked after. Photo: Unsplash / Barry Weatherall

Warning: This story contains details of sexual assault.

A theatre production currently on stage in Wellington stars a convicted rapist, and the theatre company is standing by its decision to cast him.

Harrison Stuart Nicol, who now goes by Harrison Stuart, was in 2021 convicted of raping Jessica Te Wiata in 2016.

He plays the lead in the Wellington Repertory Theatre's production of Murdered to Death, which opened on 20 March and runs until 30 March.

The theatre group has stood by its call to cast Stuart, because it said it had a safety plan to ensure everyone involved in the play was looked after.



"As a volunteer community theatre group, we take our obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the cast and crew involved in our productions extremely seriously," president Paul Stone said in a statement.

The cast and crew were consulted on the "comprehensive risk management plan," and so far there had been no notification that it had been breached, he said.

"While we understand the concerns that have been raised, we stand by our casting decision on the grounds that any risk is being actively managed and our belief that well-managed reintegration into community activities can ultimately play a constructive role in a situation like this."

But reporting by Stuff has revealed fellow actors have raised concerns about that casting, saying his return to the stage and associated promotion has caused "distress", and he should be blacklisted from the performing arts.

The safety plan - which included banning Stuart from being alone with anyone, or drinking alcohol before or during interacting with the cast and crew - was not enough to ensure people's protection, they said.

Rape survivor Jessica Te Wiata said she was grateful they had spoken up, especially because her attacker had not accepted responsibility for his actions.

The 2021 sentencing notes from Judge Peter Butler referred to Stuart's "continued denial of any offending".

Stuart has been approached for comment.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: free counselling for 5 to 19 years old, online chat 11am-10.30pm 7days/week or free phone 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 11am-11pm Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Related Posts