Featuring the Academy Awards won by John Truscott for Camelot, Celebrating John Truscott is a free exhibition celebrating the life of the esteemed designer at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Smorgon Family Plaza from 5 September to 6 November 2013.
John Truscott’s extraordinary contribution to the arts both here and overseas is widely acknowledged today. A leading pioneer of Australian stage design, Truscott’s high standards and versatility allowed him to work across many art forms, including theatre, dance, musical comedy, film and opera. Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection holds close to 300 items that chart Truscott’s rapid journey from the local stage to international stardom.
Born in Melbourne on 23 February 1936, Truscott embarked on a career in the theatre at an early age. His first design commission was A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the National Theatre Movement in 1954. His long association with the Melbourne Little Theatre (later St Martin’s Theatre Company) began in 1957, and as resident designer, Truscott designed close to eighty productions during his six years with the company. He also began to make inroads into large-scale musical theatre with designs for productions such as Garnet H. Carroll’s The King and I (1961).
Truscott’s work for the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd production of Camelot (1963) led to an invitation to design the Hollywood film version of Camelot, released in 1967, and for which he received two Academy Awards. Two years later Truscott was also nominated for Best Art Direction for the feature film Paint Your Wagon (1969), starring Clint Eastwood.
After fourteen years overseas, Truscott was enticed back to Australia in 1978 to design Mozart’s Idomeneo for the Victoria State Opera and Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers a year later. In 1980 he began designing the interiors of the Melbourne Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall). In a career full of highlights, the interiors of Arts Centre Melbourne are perhaps his most lasting and heart-felt achievement. On completion of the Theatres building which officially opened on 29 October 1984, Truscott headed back to Los Angeles. In 1988 he returned to Australia as creative consultant to Brisbane’s World Expo.
In 1989, Truscott took over as Artistic Director of the Melbourne Spoleto Festival with a view to ‘do something that hasn’t happened in Melbourne before’. He created a carnival atmosphere and decorated the city he loved with lights, fountains and flowers. At the time of his death on 5 September 1993 Truscott was back at Arts Centre Melbourne as the government appointed artist-in-residence and was helping to refurbish the building for its 10th anniversary.