Alison Chitty


"realised in wonderful detail on Alison Chitty’s set"

Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

"designer Alison Chitty has created a bullring-like lair for the Minotaur himself. The production is an outstanding achievement"

Andrew Clements, Guardian

"Alison Chitty’s elegantly sparse designs"

Richard Morrison, The Times

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Alison Chitty trained at St Martin’s School of Art and Central School of Art and Design. She won an Arts Council bursary to the Victoria Theatre, where she became resident designer for seven years and designed over 40 productions. In 1979 she returned to London to work at the Hampstead Theatre, Riverside Studios, Royal Shakespeare Company and the West End.

She was resident designer at the National Theatre in London for 8 years where she regularly collaborated with Sir Peter Hall. Her productions there include Mike Leigh’s Grief and Two Thousand Years, Scenes from the Big Picture and The Voysey Inheritance, for which she won an Olivier Award. In 2010 they hosted a major retrospective of her work.

Equally active in the field of opera, she has designed productions for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, English National Opera, Opera Holland Park, Opera North, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Staatsoper Berlin, Opera National de Paris, Staatsoper Munich, Teatro La Fenice Venice and in Dallas, Seattle, Santa Fe and Geneva. Recent productions include Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur (available on Opus Arte) for ROH, Rigoletto for La Fenice, Theodora for the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Betrothal in a Monastery in Toulouse.

She was awarded an OBE in 2004, received the Young Vic Award in 2008, was made a Royal Designer for Industry in 2009 by the Royal Society of Arts and received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of the Arts London in 2013.

Current productions include a Ring cycle at Göteborg Opera, and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea in her return to Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Die Walküre

Gothenburg Opera, December 2019

The continuation of Stephen Langridge’s Gothenburg Ring cycle has been eagerly awaited. Though the same scenic ‘kit’ is used for all four operas, the visual presentation is adapted for each episode of the drama. At a seminar before the premiere, Langridge and Alison Chitty revealed more of their plan for the cycle. While Das Rheingold was set in a timeless ‘once upon a time’, Die Walküre is set ‘yesterday’ (i.e. the previous generation), with Siegfried set ‘today’ and Götterdämmerung ‘tomorrow’ – when the next generation will (hopefully) repair the crimes against nature perpetrated by previous generations. Though there are still some visual links to Das Rheingold, in Die Walküre the Ring and the unbalancing of nature caused by Wotan and Alberich recede into the background, and relationships take centre stage...Chitty and Fabrice Serafino’s costumes and stage props have a suggestion of Seventies style, in particular in Hunding’s house and Sieglinde’s sensible house clothes.

Niklas Smith,

Gothenburg Opera, who are devoted completely to the eco-friendly direction of their activities, continued their Ring cycle with "Die Walküre" in a sleek and functional stage design by Alison Chitty.

Klaus Billand, Opera Online

The contrast between the grey costumes and stage and the enchanted fire around the valkyrie cliff at the end is all the more effective

Lennart Bromander, Aftonbladet

Gothenburg Opera has skillfully staged a drama where the focus is on how teams can destroy freedom, but also where human empathy is highlighted.

Ella Petersson,

Das Rheingold

Gothenburg Opera, November 2018

Alison Chitty’s designs bore her signature tidy refinement.

Andrew Mellor, Opera

This Gothenburg Ring proclaims its “green” credentials not only in the tilt of the direction and design – by Langridge’s frequent collaborator, Alison Chitty – but in the material conditions of the production and its home...A sustainable production can yield surprise benefits: for instance, the acoustic properties of the recycled wood used to make the sets. Alison Chitty has transformed a motley array of second-hand costumes into “a world that makes sense”. Yet, for all its stringent economy, this Rheingold does not feel particularly minimalist. Langridge says about his collaborations with Chitty that they “always try to engage the imagination of the public. Both of us would say that you don’t do that by giving them everything… The natural storytelling style of myself and Alison is in many ways economical and spare”. Our imaginations must make the Rhine, Nibelheim and Valhalla spring to life.

Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk

Revelatory...Alison Chitty’s set is made of recycled wood, with three walls that look plain under white light but otherwise take Paul Pyant’s lighting beautifully. Clever rotation of set elements on turntables and imaginative lighting turn the same room from a watery Rhine to the shining realm of the Gods and to a nightmarish Nibelheim. My most vivid visual memories of the production are all to do with the story: the torture of the child representing the Rhinegold in Nibelheim; the rainbow of plastic waste where the discarded Rhinegold was lying among the yellows while the complacent gods ascended to Valhalla; and the endless procession of extras flowing like (and representing) the waters of the Rhine in the opening scene.

Niklas Smith,

The Cure & The Corridor

Holland Festival, 2016

The austere but very effective backdrop of Alison Chitty

Henri Drost, Theaterkrant


Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

Alison Chitty’s scenography is judicious and evocative.

Chantal Cazaux, L’Avant-Scène Opéra

…ingenius minimalist scenes… -

Olivier Brunel,

The Cure & The Corridor

Aldeburgh Festival, Linbury Theatre

Alison Chitty’s designs use colour and symbol to powerful effect.

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times ****

Martin Duncan’s production, with simply effective designs by Alison Chitty, is beautifully nuanced.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian ****

Alison Chitty’s designs with Paul Pyant’s lighting conferred intense dramatic power on key moments, most notable Padmore’s spooky transformation from Jason into his father.

Michael Church, The Independent ***

Alison Chitty’s abstract sets were genius throughout.

Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Spectator

Pirates of Penzance

English National Opera

The designer Alison Chitty [dresses] the chorus as impeccable Victorian maidens, ploddy policeman and picture-book pirates… The action is framed within circles and other abstract geometric shapes, with location suggested purely by colour and an array of beautifully drawn Cornish birds.

Richard Morrison, The Times ****

Visually, however, it’s a show that plays to the back of the house.

Alexandra Coghlan, The Spectator

Alison Chitty’s colourful costumes are immaculately late-Victorian and look marvellous.

George Hall, The Stage *****

The silliness of the plot is enhanced by the intense pigments of Alison Chitty’s simple but sophisticated designs, near abstract but with just enough suggestive detail.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

The trendily minimalist set designs by Alison Chitty suggest we are looking through an onshore telescope at the pirates’ ship.

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times

It is conventionally stages in 19th-century costume much as the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company would have envisioned – with the token modernism of a streamlined, semi-abstract set by Alison Chitty.

Michael White, The New York Times

Alison Chitty’s fluorescent designs for this production suggest the opening and closing of a camera shutter, and the ship which disgorges the pirates is bandbox-dainty.

Michael Church, The Independent ****


Royal Opera House, 2013 & 2016

Alessandro Carletti's lighting bathes Alison Chitty's austere set of grey plinths in the pale wash of dawn, the glare of noon, the softening of dusk and the long shadows of a moonlit night.

Chitty's plinths display a wider dramatic range than the principals, channeling the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, tombs on the Mount of Olives, the tight alleys of the Lodz ghetto and the gas chambers.

Anna Picard, The Independent

Designed by Alison Chitty...some of its broader visual references - exiled 20th century groups, including Jewish refugees from the Nazi period, and Daniel Liebeskind's Holocaust Memorial in Berlin - remain indelibly eloquent

George Hall, The Stage

Alison Chitty’s designs seek to establish a connection between biblical banishment and 20th-century oppression, specifically the Nazi persecution of the Jews; and, the modern business suits by implication also suggest the miseries of present-day mass exile... With a nod to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the sandpit-stage is strewn with statuesque stone plinths representing the Jerusalem Temple; in Alessandro Carletti’s half-light they evoke the eerie strangeness of a de Chirico public square when first viewed, and subsequently they become stumbling blocks to meaningful stage movement.

Claire Seymour, Opera TOday

The details of Alison Chitty's designs have a real abstract elegance

Planet Hugill


Royal Opera House

The triumph of this new interpretation, directed by Stephen Langridge and designed by Alison Chitty, is that it de-sanctifies Parsifal : all trace of pseudo-sacred mumbo-jumbo is removed. What we get instead is a visual shorthand, contemporary but timeless, that illuminates the opera’s philosophical complexity while keeping the narrative both straightforward and continually mesmerising. Across a five-hour span, that is no mean feat...

Andrew Clark, Financial Times *****

Alison Chitty’s angular sets, lit by Paul Pyant, and the grey-suited knights evoke an alienating, militaristic society.

Barry Millington, Evening Standard ****

A Provincial Life

Sherman Cymru, Cardiff

Yet in Alison Chitty's beautiful bare and open design the play moves with a marvellous freedom: scythers walk in rhythm across a field; families cluster miserably around a stove; the sense of small episodes in a massive space has rarely been so powerfully summoned.

Susannah Clapp, The Observer

“Grief” by Mike Leigh

National Theatre

The action is set in a suburb near London and follows its characters through several months in 1957-58. The period setting is meticulously caught in both Alison Chitty’s oppressively neat but cheerless suburban living room design, the Fifties clothes, and the flavour of the dialogue

Daily Telegraph

The Minotaur

Royal Opera House - Revival

Designer Alison Chitty’s sets had a rugged simplicity which sat perfectly with Birtwistle’s vision, creating a part-virtual bull-ring in which this subversively appealing creature could kill, dream, lament and finally be killed.

Michael Church, The Independent

Stephen Langridge’s production is stylish, playing out in the wan sunlight and oppressive darkness of Alison Chitty’s set.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian *****

Alison Chitty’s bullring-inspired designs stamp their indelible mark on Birtwistle’s mythical landscape, a place of fear and beauty.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

The Io Passion

Aldeburgh Festival

Over 90 minutes, the same small things happen again and again. Ingeniously and with not little menace, Alison Chitty’s set presents these two perspectives simultaneously, one on each side of the stage.

Nick Kimberley, Evening Standard

Alison Chitty: Design Process 1970 - 2010

Design Process 1970 - 2010

View a PDF of the brochure released to celebrate the National Theatre's 2010 exhibition dedicated to the work of Alison Chitty. The brochure includes drawings and photos from throughout her varied career, as well as articles written by Alison Chitty which give an insight into her design process.

These photos are available to be downloaded.
Right click on a desired image and select the "Save Link As" option.