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Trundle, Jean Amalie (1905–1965)

by Jennifer Radbourne

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Jean Amalie Trundle (1905-1965), teacher, actress and theatre director, was born on 24 March 1905 in South Brisbane, elder daughter of Frank John Trundle, a Queensland-born plumber, and his wife Jemima Jane, née Archibald, who came from Scotland. Jean studied speech and drama in Brisbane with Barbara Sisley, and qualified as an associate (1922) and licentiate (1924) in elocution of Trinity College of Music, London. By 1925 she was running her own speech-training school in the city. A talented actress, she appeared in plays directed by Sisley and Rhoda Felgate for the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society. She and her pupils formed the Jean Trundle Players; they presented stage productions to benefit charities in the suburbs and various country towns.

As a speech and drama teacher, Miss Trundle showed skill in preparing young people for performance, particularly in dialogue recitals, and achieved continuing success at eisteddfods. She also trained verse-speaking choirs that were hailed by adjudicators in the 1930s as 'deserving the highest possible praise'. On 5 January 1935 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, she married Victor James Hardgraves, a commercial traveller who was also secretary of the Dickens Fellowship, an actor, and business manager of the Jean Trundle Players. Jean and Vic were childless. In February 1936 they launched a new body, Brisbane Amateur Theatres, to present plays with 'popular appeal'. Trundle directed their first production, Leslie Howard's Tell Me the Truth, in which she took the leading role. It was followed by an adaptation of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, starring her husband. As B.A.T.'s leading figure, she continued to direct and produce plays regularly until 1965.

Trundle's first Shakespearian production was The Merchant of Venice in 1943. From that year until 1965 B.A.T. presented, annually, the Shakespearian play set for the schools' junior public examination; Trundle directed ten of the twenty-two productions. In 1947 B.A.T. was renamed the Brisbane Arts Theatre. Rehearsals, set construction and planning-meetings took place at the Hardgraves' home. Performances were held in the Albert Hall. The group's increasing professionalism and successful touring ventures, as well as the excitement generated by the production of modern works such as Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, led B.A.T. to acquire its own playhouse. In 1959 the company bought a former second-hand shop on Petrie Terrace. After much fund-raising, the building was converted into a theatre. For its opening in September 1961, Trundle directed The Multi-Coloured Umbrella by Barbara Vernon.

A flamboyant and stylish woman, Trundle grew more eccentric as she aged. Her last production for B.A.T., in June 1965, was her favourite, The Merchant of Venice. A Toowoomba critic wrote that 'the co-producers, Jean Trundle and Vic Hardgraves, threw tradition to the winds and set forth the gayest, most colourful and robust interpretation of Shakespeare's classic tragi-comedy ever to gladden a reviewer's heart'. Survived by her husband, Jean Trundle died of lobar pneumonia on 23 July 1965 at Ashgrove and was cremated. She had dedicated her life to encouraging young people to love literature and the theatre. A drama competition for Queensland secondary school students was named (1966) after her.

Select Bibliography

  • Brisbane Arts Theatre, the First Fifty Years 1936-1986 (Brisb, 1987)
  • Toowoomba Chronicle, 12 July 1965
  • Darling Downs Gazette, 12 July 1965
  • J. Radbourne, Little Theatre: Its Development, Since World War II, in Australia, with Particular Reference to Queensland (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1978)
  • V. Hardgraves, scrapbooks (University of Queensland Library).

Citation details

Jennifer Radbourne, 'Trundle, Jean Amalie (1905–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/trundle-jean-amalie-11885/text21283, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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