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Tuesday, 17 March 2020

John Truscott: Beginnings 1952-1963

Written by Denise Whitehouse

John TruscottJohn Truscott on set of Romeo and Juliet, 1957, The Little Theatre, Melbourne—John Truscott designer, APAC 1997.088.362.

Temperamental, brilliant, charming, handsome, a perfectionist, a workaholic, a man of impeccable taste and a short fuse, John Truscott occupies a distinctive place in Australia’s cultural history as a performing arts designer. His career encompassed all the arts, beginning in 1952 with repertory acting, stage and costume design, followed by musicals, film, ballet and opera before moving into the creation of immersive arts environments in 1980 with his work at the Victorian Arts Centre. This involved not only every exacting detail of the interiors, from the wall finishes to corporate identity, floral installations and the commissioning of art works, but also the external landscaping that transformed Roy Grounds’ concrete fortresses, St Kilda Road and the Yarra River, into Melbourne’s cultural leisure precinct. Truscott was, to use Barry Kosky’s description of the performing arts designer an architect of temporary spaces and transformative sensory experiences. He transformed Brisbane, with his designs for the 1988 World Expo, into a six months carnival-style festival featuring riverside stages and pavilions filled with exhibitions, sculptures, strolling performers, rock bands, water ballet and wave upon wave of choreographed dancing flags, all of which came alight at night with light displays. Similarly, he transformed Melbourne, for two weeks of the year between 1989-1991 into a people-filled, International Arts Festival extravaganza, dressing the city with fireworks and lights, flowers and garden installations, water and street performances to create an all encompassing experience that survives only in our collective memory.

Surprisingly little has been published about John Truscott other than Frank Van Straten’s brief biography and Vicki Fairfax’s chapter on Truscott’s Victorian Arts Centre work in A Place Across the River. [1] There is though an abundance of anecdotal stories the consistent themes of which are Truscott’s rare creative vision and ability to shape change and drive large projects while skilfully mentoring and inspiring everyone around him to excel. There are ‘cost a lot’ Camelot tales about Truscott excess often accompanied by asides about his ingenious solutions to budget cuts—his use of black taper candles for lighting on the wedding scene in Camelot and fashioning of pearls from pin pong balls for Victorian State Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers, which the performers were then trained to handle as if they were real. But most who worked with Truscott, speak with awe and admiration of his charisma, brilliance, generosity of spirit, exacting detail and perfectionism and his weaknesses—the chain smoking, long working hours, the hatred of compromise and moods that prompted Betty Pounder to call him ‘black magic’. [2]

My task as the John Truscott Foundation’s Research Fellow is to bring the facts to people’s stories and piece them together with the diverse ephemera scattered across archives—especially the Australian Performing Arts Collection (APAC)—to shape a critical account of Truscott’s career and legacy. The focus of this exploratory piece is Truscott’s foundational years at the National Theatre Movement and Melbourne’s Little Theatre. Truscott did not leave an archive. Always dissatisfied he discarded, gifted and often destroyed his work. What exists is fragmentary and I am indebted to Wendy Dunne, Blair Edgar, Claudia Funder (APAC), Sandy Graham and Frank Van Straten for helping me fill the gaps.


Claiming to be shy, Truscott seldom talked about himself to the media and was particularly silent about his childhood. He was born 23 February 1936 to Roy Andrew Truscott, a surgical instrument traveller, and Margaret Truscott, formerly Cotter, who lived at 2a Eumeralla Road, Caulfield, Melbourne. Roy was the youngest son of a respectable Long Gully, Bendigo, mining family. Truscott told Mary Adams in a rare ABC radio interview, that his father, who became a managing director of Drug Houses of Australia, disapproved of the theatre but demanded that his son excel in everything he did. Truscott makes no mention of his mother in interviews, which is intriguing given he was an only child until ten when his sister Patricia was born. It was only then, he told Adams, that ‘I fully realised my childhood’. She brought warmth and intimacy and his childhood became happier. [3]

According to Truscott, who I am not sure is reliable, he went to Malvern Primary School after which his father was keen for him to go to Geelong Grammar but he refused, putting it down in later life to ‘Youthful resistance and I had friends that went there and they behaved in a very superior manner. I didn’t want to be part of that ... I was intimidated. I am painfully shy’. [4] Feeling very much the odd one out and not knowing what he wanted to do, he opposed whatever the family suggested and ended up attending Caulfield Junior Technical School, studying trade subjects such as turning and fitting, carpentry and technical drawing. He left school at the end of year 9 or 10 when, as one story goes, he was apprenticed to a blacksmith. In Truscott’s romanticised version of this difficult childhood, he leaves home at 16 to join the theatre.  

The Australian National Theatre Movement 1953-1956

Truscott had been taken to circuses and pantomimes by a pseudo aunt who also took him to his first musical, The Desert Song, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, February 1945, which starred a debonair Max Oldaker singing upon a live horse. [5] Stage struck, the nine year old Truscott wanted to become ‘a provider of the visual magic’, to create costumes for artists and ‘imagine a world all of his own and frame it all with a proscenium arch’. [6] In late 1952 in a fit of youthful bravado he sent sketches to Gertrude Johnson at the Australian National Theatre Movement after which its Head of Drama, William P. Carr invited Truscott to the first rehearsal for his production of Caesar and Cleopatra on Tuesday, 29 December 1953, at 7.30. [7] Joining the troop of youngsters who gravitated to the National, attracted by the hands-on experiences offered by its annual Arts Festivals held at Garnet H. Carroll’s Princess Theatre, he found a creative community in which to flourish.

The National, as Frank Van Straten’s National Treasure recounts, was Australian theatre’s training ground and inspiration for the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. [8] The young could sample opera, drama and ballet in an all-in hands-on learning environment. They could, like Truscott would, pop up in everything and do everything. They might be in or stage manage a play, go on as an ‘extra’ in opera or in a mime role in a ballet. [9] When Truscott joined the National at Eastern Hill preparations were underway for the 1954, February 3–April 24, Arts Festival that featured not only Caesar and Cleopatra but also Gian Carlo Menotti’s modernist operas, The Consul and Amahl, and The Tales of Hoffman, the latter three being directed by Stefan Haag and designed by Louis Kahan. [10] Viennese emigres Haag and Kahan brought European artistic and technical sophistication to the National’s ground breaking production of The Consul with ‘ingenious’ designs that included moving sets that changed in front of the audience. They also brought expert knowledge of theatre mechanics and, as one reviewer put it, an ability to adapt ideas to local technical limitation achieving theatricality without artifice or vulgarity. Kahan, who had lived in Paris mixing with the avant-garde while working for the couturier Paul Poiret, regarded his work for the National as his best. His stage designs are characterised by exacting clarity of line and form, humour and fantasy, combined with a modernist concern for space, light and technology, traces of which can be detected in Truscott stage designs. [11]

Truscott recalled working on a Menotti double bill, The Medium and The Telephone, and the children’s opera Amahl, presumably helping make props and scenery. [12] Blair Edgar vividly recalls a determined Truscott spending all his spare time in the workshops studying and learning hands-on-skills. It was Johnson and Carr’s practice to identify an individual’s talent and direct them accordingly, channelling Anne Fraser, who Truscott admired, into design rather than acting. Truscott, however, was clear about his direction and the importance of mastering the vocabulary of every theatrical department and the teamwork pivotal to successful theatre design. Intent on understanding through doing he spent every hour learning from the experts and even took to hiding in the roof at night to discover the tricks of the exemplar scenery painter Dresford Hardingham. Hours were spent in wardrobe with the milliner Marjorie Head, costumier Phyllis Foulkes and wardrobe mistress, Mrs Trezise, learning about fabrics, how to cut, sew and manufacture costumes, and the trickery of detailing and trims. He would sit watching and questioning Trezise. A skilled tailoress who was brilliant at men’s costumes, she could make a man’s garment look like the masculine character, compensating and modelling the performer’s body to fit the part. [13]

Truscott also took to the stage beginning in February 1954 as First Porter and Major Domo in Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra. He received decent reviews for performances in The Vigil, April 1954, The White Carnation, September, 1954, and was singled out for his ‘nervously introspective Bombardier Alan’ in Malcom Phillips’s The Vulture’s Eye, 1956. [14] But he was not a good actor. Rather as William Carse said, describing his performances in the National’s Ballet Workshop productions of Swan Lake and Giselle, ‘John could stand well and look elegant ... He was really just a person capable of “filling in”.’ [15] For a young Blair Edgar, however, Truscott had stage presence—‘He was almost too good looking ... with jet black hair on top of his pale face with the deep burning eyes of vision and passion and beautiful hands with which he was so adept.’ And he was wonderful with make-up. Sitting between Ron Falk and Truscott preparing for Malcolm Phillips’s production of The Merchant of Venice 1956, Edgar watched awestruck as Truscott transformed himself every night into the Doge of Venice using the exaggerated makeup techniques of ballet for dramatic effect. [16] Truscott acted, he explained to Adams, to understand the needs of the performers.

The Merchant of Venice, like The Twelfth Night, 1956, in which John also appeared, was designed by Anne Fraser the sets and props for which he probably helped in produce. Truscott seized every opportunity to test his design abilities creating a laboratory for H.G. Wells’ Ann Veronica, 1954, designing and painting sets for Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, 1955, and The Vulture’s Eye. His first, full scale attempt at stage and costume design was for National’s youth production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June 1954, starring ‘young moderns’ in the top roles and Truscott as Philostrate. [17] ‘I was terrified.’ he recalled, ‘There was only a few hundred pounds involved but I felt my life depended on every dab of paint or stitch in a costume.’ [18]

The press was full of praise for the teenage newcomer John Truscott whose designs revealed an uncommon gift. Frank Murphy described the costumes as ‘beautiful, arresting and symbolic and those of Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, and the fairies themselves ... unusual and imaginative.’ Like Truscott’s co-star Neville Thurgood, Murphy noted the ‘green-lit Wood, in which so much of the action takes place, catches the atmosphere and suggest tangibly an air of magic.’ [19] ‘It was captivating’, Thurgood said, drawing attention to what would become Truscott’s signature use of scrim, ‘the wood and Oberon’s cave! He’d got a three-dimensional effect so from the audience it looked like the set went back and back and back in a big tunnel of trees. It was absolutely brilliant!’ [20] The National reworked Truscott’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for its 1956 Drama Festival this time with his costumes beautifully crafted by Phyl Foulkes and his scenery design painted by the great Hardingham. Advocate reviewer, Frank Murphy, impressed by Truscott’s designs, noted ‘the light, fairy elements of the world of Oberon and Titania’ and excellent costumes. His singled out Truscott’s performance as Oberon describing him as ‘a splendid preternatural figure’ but was less complimentary about Teresa Couldery’s Titania. [21]

By 1956 Truscott was very much on his own. His parents had moved to Sydney and he was working in a range of jobs including window dressing at Georges and Myers to earn his keep. His relationship had soured with his partner leaving for overseas taking Truscott’s valuables and leaving him ‘poorer than a church mouse’. [22] When the National Theatre set up their 800-seater tent in the beachside town of Rosebud for its summer season Red Riding Hood pantomime, December 1955–February 1956, he was existing in a sweater, pants, shoes and an overcoat. But as his scrapbook shows he found some relief camping with his theatre family—Lisle Jones, Loris Synon, Neville Irons, Neville Thurgood, William Carse, Norma Webster—and starring daily as the Demon Wolf in Peter and Wolf. [23] Looking back Edgar stressed

We were all kids together ... misfits, and the theatre was ... our common non-judgemental ground, where you were as good as what you could do. Talents emerged and diverged and emerged and re-emerged. We were a motley crew but as things turned out a crew who all had theatre careers. [24]

Truscott’s years at the National coincided with a period of theatre revitalisation and interest in design stimulated by the newly formed Elizabethan Theatre Trust, and ‘no cost spared’ post-war recovery tours by The Old Vic ,1955 and 1961, and The Royal Ballet. Truscott was particularly enthralled by the Old Vic’s 1955 Shakespearian tour—starring Robert Helpman and Hollywood’s Katharine Hepburn—that showcased three of Britain’s leading stage designers. Australian Loudon Sainthill at the peak of his career was responsible for The Merchant of Venice, Peter Rice The Taming of the Shrew and Leslie Hurry Measure for Measure. [25] The potential for a stellar overseas career was driven home for Truscott by Kenneth Rowell’s return to work with the National on the Elizabethan Theatre Trust’s inaugural season of Mozart Operas, July–October 1956. Now an adult member of the National’s design team, Truscott accompanied Rowell and a workshop team to Adelaide to prepare for The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni which were well received in contrast to Hagg’s and Kahan’s The Magic Flute. Hagg and Kahan had defected to the Australian Opera Company with others crippling Gertrude Johnson’s National Theatre Movement in the process. [26]

Melbourne Little Theatre 1957-1964

By late 1956 Truscott also was ready to move on. He had attracted the attention of The Melbourne Little Theatre’s management-Brett Randall, Irene Mitchell, George Fairfax-who invited him to become their resident designer. Australian theatre was changing and a new interest in design was behind The Little’s appointment of Truscott and the Union Repertory Theatre’s appointment of Anne Fraser as Australia’s first non-commercial resident designer in 1956. [27] The Little Theatre was in expansion having opened its South Yarra theatre in August 1956. The first theatre built in Melbourne in 25 years, it had heating, hot and cold showers in its new dressing rooms, seating for 400 plus and, importantly for Truscott, a beautifully proportioned stage with the latest stage equipment. [28]

A formidable and magnetic woman, Irene Mitchell was the powerhouse behind The Little Theatre. Enormously influential and well connected she raised the funding for the new theatre, and built its substantial subscription list that included the South Yarra, Toorak and Jewish cultural elite that comprised Melbourne’s theatre patronage network. As Truscott told the English press, The Little played to capacity houses and ‘audiences with a certain amount of critical facility—which was an incentive for a young artist to put forth his very best efforts’. [29] During the 1970s’ funding wars the Little’s audiences were derided as the blue rinse set in a sexist attack on the power of Mitchell’s largely female network that including the wives of Garnet Carroll and Frank Tait. Guided by Mitchell, Truscott’s would be inducted not only into the theatre arts but also the culture and etiquette of this patronage system. Designing private dinner parties and the like, he developed an extended arts family that supported him throughout his life.

Famous for her love of the young, Mitchell shaped The Little into a training ground for her ‘theatre children’ encouraging them in any way she could including financial. She loved talent and she took Truscott under her wing teaching him how to control his talents while providing much needed love and stability. The relationship was deep and formative. As Wendy Dunne phrased it, ‘She was his mum’ and he her ‘theatrical son’. Truscott set up home in South Yarra making the first of his gardens and entered a long partnership with the teacher and artist Graham Bennett whose collaboration contributed substantially to Truscott’s success. [30]

With Mitchell, Fairfax and Peter Randall as directors and Truscott resident designer, The Little entered a golden age. Its popularity was on the rise and by end of 1957, Truscott’s first year, it had 700 on its subscription waiting list. [31] Truscott claimed to have designed well over a hundred productions for The Little between 1957–1963 and the list captured in Frank Van Straten’s Truscott timeline is extensive. [32] The Little staged 13 productions a year, 12 to entertain and pay the bills, and one to push boundaries. Many were light entertainment—Noel Coward’s Relative Values, March 1957, James Barrie’s What Every Woman Knows, 1960, An Italian Straw Hat, 1959. But many were world and Australian firsts including Fairfax’s production of The Wooden Dish, February 1957 that introduced Truscott to The Little’s audiences and Mitchell and Truscott’s rendition of Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp, April 1957. The Little’s focus was contemporary theatre. It quickly took up Broadway dramas such as Storm Jameson’s thriller, The Hidden River, 1958. And but for an occasional Romeo and Juliet, and Doctor Jekyll and Hyde, starring Frank Thring lost in the dry-ice fogs of Truscott designed London streets, its focus was modern playwrights—Graham Greene, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Ionesco and Herman Wouk whose Caine Munity Court Martial, August 1958, proved a national success for Randall and Truscott as the first, full length, live drama on Australian Television Channel 7, February 1959.

Only a small number of drawings, costumes and photos pertaining to Truscott’s Little years are extant and this makes it difficult to comprehensively visualise his design development. We can glimpse aesthetic sophistication and functional simplicity in a photo of the set for the September 1960, triple bill featuring Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs, John Mortimer’s The Dock Brief and Eugene O’Neill’s Before Breakfast.

A drawing and photo for a set from Jean Anouillh’s psychological drama, Traveller without Luggage, August 1960, offer insight into his fondness for ornate French style interiors, exacting detailing and a mood evoking light play across surfaces. But without the actors such images are lifeless and it has needed the memories of Sandy Graham and Wendy Dunne to bring life to Truscott’s stage work.

Faced with three week turn-arounds Truscott worked at an intense pace supported by everyone at the The Little, who became absorbed in research the moment a play was announced. Immersed in the period, be it the Borgias or World War 1, they studied every facet, paying attention to the detailing, from the architecture and art to the fabric, tailoring, trims, jewellery and so on, that would make Truscott’s imaginative and fantasy-like sets theatrically real and authentic. Truscott himself was a sponge and used the historical research to compensate for his lack of formal education. Hands-on, he was out and about learning as he sourced materials from Job Warehouse, antique shops, furniture stores, Myer, Georges, and made the costumes and props and painted scenery. [33] His aim was to make as real as feasible, his doors were made of wood and when they slammed they made a noise.

Everything is real ... In a musical you can be decorative, but a play calls for reality. You build a model a foot high, you paint the backdrops, rather I paint the backdrops ... you have it built, you furnish it, you light it, the producer is happy everyone is happy but me. Invariably I would like to pull it apart and do it over. [34]

All was done under the watchful eye of Mitchell, a lovable but tough task master, who could reduce Truscott and her theatre children to tears telling them ‘I expect you to be perfect. I will tell you when you are not’. Truscott became equally exacting and demanded perfection. Wendy recalled how she and ‘Miss Mitch’ spent days dyeing tights for The Splendid Outcasts, trying to match John’s colours. If the colour was even one gradient out they had to do them again. [35]

Mitchell was never daunted by the scale of a project and revelled in organising large pageants that brought the arts to Melbourne’s diverse communities. As a stage director, she had a huge love of her performers and an ability to shift her brain into the mode that best suited the piece she was working on. Like Truscott she revelled in colour and costumes and had a flair for the dramatic which she used to bring Robert Ardrey’s, highly political, Shadow of Heroes, 1959, alive for Australian audiences. Written in 1958, only three years after the Hungarian uprising, Shadow of Heroes told of the Hungarian uprising and the events leading up to it. Truscott’s inventive set was made entirely of huge packing crates (sourced from the automotive industry) which shaped the skyline of Budapest and were moved by actors and stage staff during the production to form different scenes. Mitchell’s theatricality shone through every night when the cast sang the Hungarian National Anthem in Hungarian to the sound of seats shuffling as the Hungarians in the audience stood unprompted and joined in with tears running down their faces. [36] It was, The Age reviewer wrote, ‘ of those rare pieces of theatre which commends itself ... for what it has to say and teach, and for the honesty which it says it ... a bold, challenging and moving drama which strikes hard at the human conscience.’ [37]

With the shift into the 1960s Truscott and Mitchell’s partnership reached its peak in two outstanding productions, Rosemary Sisson’s The Splendid Outcasts, May 1961, and Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood, August 1961, which is still discussed by those who were involved. As Sandy Graham recalled

Truscott designed the most ingenious complex set. He created a whole village on stage with a room for each character. There were pieces that could be wheeled in and out, and as the light moved characters would slide in on gurnies, clocks and chimneys dropped in and out. Dylan’s world was created magically and perfectly. It was faultless. [38]

Mitchell’s decision to stage the Australian premier of Sisson’s play about Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia tapped into the rising popularity of extravagant historical costume dramas and Truscott’s fascination with the British tradition of romantic, colourful pastiches of period styles as exemplified by the work of Sainthill and Oliver Messel. One of television and film’s most successful period storytellers, Sisson is described as having a keen nose for stories that are both true to actuality and to stage effect which was ideally suited to Truscott. As the sketches and costumes in the APAC attest Splendid Outcasts involved considerable investment by The Little and Truscott who personally paid for the budget blowouts.

The exactingly simple set captured in this photograph exudes an aura of renaissance classicism overlaid by implied luxury that would come alive when occupied by actors attired in elegantly rich costumes in glowing colour harmonies. You can image the play of light accentuating Truscott’s trademark use of pearls, lush fabrics and trims and bringing an atmosphere of glittering splendour to his Italian palazzo that included grand staircases and a perfect renaissance garden. The costumes were crafted by Dulcie Pattie and Nell Hodges from Truscott’s National days and the headdresses by Marjorie Head and Betty Walker all of whom would work with him on Camelot.

The 1960s would be the era of medieval/renaissance dramas featuring kings and queens in castles and cathedrals dealing with existential dilemmas. Attuned to the trend, Mitchell and Truscott’s revival of Jean Anouilh’s Becket, April 1963, featured simple, almost modernist, gothic architectural sets as a dramatic foil for actors in exactingly cut, flowing costumes in fabrics that ranged from ecclesiastically austere to lavishly regal.


Encouraged by Mitchell, Truscott began working for Garnett Carroll of Princess Theatre fame. Carroll had been experiencing success with musicals and was moving away from replicating overseas designs with overseas performers to showcasing local talent. Truscott appears to have been learning the ropes while supervising and co-ordinating the wardrobe for The Merry Widow, 1960, designing costumes for West Side Story, October 1960, the sets and costumes for The Most Happy Fellow, 1961, all of which offered little scope for creativity. It was not until 1962 after The Splendid Outcasts that he was given creative freedom for The King and I, December 1962, with his spectacular design being promoted as the ‘star’ of the show. In the same year he organised for Paul Kathner to replace him at The Little.

In the manner of the day, the publicity for The King and I made a great deal of Carroll’s £80,000 investment, £16,500 of which was spent on Truscott’s set and costumes which were designed to draw in the crowds. The King and I, the public was told, was Carroll’s most costly and high risk production. All was resting on Truscott’s design. Six rooms in the Princess Theatre had been given over to wardrobe production and a dozen trained buyers hired to shop for materials which one reporter described as a fairyland of silk and eastern fabrics, rich brocades, imported sarongs and vivid Thai silks. His, King and I, Truscott told reporters was to be lavish yet regal, spectacular yet tasteful and as authentic as possible while staying with the concept of the script, music and book. [39]

A Melbourne reporter visiting the Princess Theatre’s workshop in which 120 people were working on costumes full time for three weeks spun a tale that would become archetypically Truscott.

In the middle of the biggest room a tall handsome young man gave directions. His long sensitive fingers, could give a garment the right line with a quick tuck here, and another there. According to his staff, Truscott’s grey eyes aren’t always as calm. “You should see him in a temper,” recalled one young seamstress. “He tears up the designs and half and hour later someone is told to stick them together again.” Truculent or not, the reporter continued, John Truscott was doing a wonderful job. He had only been with the company for 5 weeks, and had hardly had a wink of sleep. [40]

What I find interesting is the media’s showcasing of the design process from Truscott’s model and staff briefing, to the building of sets and scenes and the crowded wardrobe where much was made of the dedication and detailing that went into making in the costumes. Such was Truscott’s pursuit of perfection Marjorie Head’s team had each taken three days to make a stunning temple headpiece which, like the traditionally correct jewellery and beaded dresses, probably cost more to manufacture than the originals. ‘All the gloss and glitter’ the copy continued, ‘could have detracted from the music and the acting and ended in vulgar spectacle. But designer Truscott has won wide acclaim for his blending of costuming and settings—and the way he spent Mr Carroll’s money.’ He was, if you believed Carroll’s press hype and The King and I’s English director Charles Hickman ‘one of the world’s greatest theatre designers’.

Truscott had arrived. The King and I was a success as the reviewers raved about his brilliance. ‘With so much colour and glitter on the stage’, wrote one enthralled reviewer

it might have been difficult for designer, John Truscott, to match them for settings, but his beautiful gold palace setting with changing backdrops is the perfect background. The ballet is a triumph of wonderland. Four bloodhounds with fearsome Siamese masked heads, an angel is glittering blue, little Eva with instant wings, and wicked Simon of Legree a green nightmare of beauty, make the ballet a feast for the eye. [41]

As the summer holiday crowds flocked to see The King and I John Truscott signed the contract for Camelot with J.C. Williamson that would lead to Hollywood fame.


1. Frank Van Straten, ‘John Truscott AO, 1936-1993,’ Live Performance Australia, Hall of Fame, 2007, ; Vicki Fairfax, A Place Across the River: they aspired to create the Victorian Arts Centre, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 2002, pp.171–207.

2. Sue Nattrass, ‘Eulogy’, St John’s Anglican Church Toorak, 8 September 1993, in A Tribute to John Truscott, Melbourne, Victorian Arts Centre Trust, c.1993.

3. Extract from Mary Adams’ 1984 ‘Desert Island Discs’ interview with John Truscott, played on ‘Nostalgia Show’ with Frank Van Straten and Clive Stark, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1993, APAC.

4. Doug Aiton, ‘Conversations: The Ringmaster,’ The Sunday Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 8 September 1990. Scrapbook, c.1990, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.008.406.

5. ‘Glamor Girl in the Desert Song’, The Sporting Globe ( Melbourne, Vic.), 17 February 1945, p. 4,

6. Desert Island Discs; Also Eric Jones, The Stage and Television Today, 29 July 1965, pages from a London productions scrapbook, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.088.193.

7. Invitation card from William Carr, Scrapbook, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.088.406.

8. Frank Van Straten, National Treasure: the story of Gertrude Johnson and the National Theatre, Victoria Press, South Melbourne, 1994.

9. Blair Edgar, ‘Truscott’, e-mail recollections and telephone conversation, February 2020.

10. ‘Menotti’s “Consul” At Tivoli’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 11 August 1953, p. 2, ; Frank Murphy, ‘The Consul’, The Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.), 12 March 1953, p. 18,

11. Louis Kahan’s 1954 designs for The Consul may be viewed on the APAC website,

12. Howard Palmer, ‘Setting a standard’, The Sun ( Melbourne, Vic.), 3 November 1962. Press Cuttings 1968-1993, APAC 1997.088.431.

13. Edgar.

14. National Treasure, pp. 199, 204.

15. National Treasure, p. 198.

16. Edgar.

17. National Treasure, p. 198. ‘Young Moderns: Teen-agers fill the top roles’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 June 1954, p. 12,

18. Staff Reporter, ‘Putting us in the scene’, The Sun ( Melbourne, Vic.), March 1964, Press Cuttings 1968–1993, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.088.406.

19. Frank Murphy, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, The Advocate ( Melbourne, Vic.), 24 June 1954, p. 19,

20. National Treasure, p. 198.

21. Frank Murphy, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, The Advocate ( Melbourne, Vic.), undated clipping [1956], Scrapbook, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.008.406.

22. Edgar.

23. National Treasure, p. 202; Scrapbook, John Truscott Collection, APAC 1997.088.431.

24. Edgar.

25. ‘Australians share stage triumph’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 29 June 1955, p. 16, ; Andrew Montana, Fantasy Modern: Loudon Sainthill’s theatre of art and life, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2013, pp. 507, 511; Kathleen Ashby, ‘Loudon Sainthill’s Canterbury Tales’, Theatre Heritage Australia,

26. National Treasure, p. 206.

27. Anne Fraser, ‘Years of Design: A Photo Essay’, Kim Spinks, ed., Australian Theatre Design, Australian Production Designers Association, Paddington, NSW, 1992, pp. 125–124.

28. Keith Manzie, ‘The Little Theatre: A 25-years dream comes true’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 24 August 1956, p. 11,

29. Jones, The Stage and Television Today.

30. Sandy Graham, ‘Memories of Irene Mitchell ‘,Theatre Heritage Australia, 2015, ; Interview with Wendy Dunne and Sandy Graham, Melbourne, February 2020.

31. ‘Little Theatre Guild Report for presentation revenue accounts and balance, November 1957’, Irene Mitchell Collection, APAC 1990.

32. Frank Van Straten, Truscott timeline, in author’s possession.

33. Wendy Dunne and Sandy Graham.

34. Jones, The Stage and Television Today.

35. Wendy Dunne and Sandy Graham.

36. ‘Memories of Irene Mitchell’.

37. ‘Shadow of Heroes’, Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 28 September 1961, p. 6.

38. ‘Memories of Irene Mitchell’.

39. ‘Where £80,000 goes in a musical’, Pix (Sydney, NSW), 8 February 1963, pp. 10–13, Marjorie Head Collection, APAC 2001-2002-115.

40. ‘Sun’s Women’s Staff Reporter Cathie Olsen looks at clothes’, newspaper cutting, Marjorie Head Collection, APAC 2001-2002-115.

41. Unidentified Truscott CV comprising extracts of reviews, c.1970 reviews, John Truscott Collection, APAC.


Last modified on Sunday, 22 March 2020