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 with Stephen Langridge.

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


Gothenburg Opera, December 2021

Stephen Langridge and his superb creative team have held the four-year cycle together despite being forced by the pandemic to produce a socially-distanced and online-only Siegfried last season…Alison Chitty and Fabrice Serafino’s set has been an essential connection between the different parts of the Ring, with the recycled wood walls becoming progressively more battered and holed as Wagner’s world hurtles from natural balance to doomed love and physical and moral junkyards…this production is a product of the joy of storytelling and glorious music

Niklas Smith, Seen and Heard International

Gothenburg’s first Ring cycle ended with a simple but overwhelming gesture of hope…as Götterdämmerung's orchestral postlude radiated optimism, a group of citizen extras planted a tree at the front of the stage, two of them embracing in front of the prompt box. ‘Tomorrow’ was scrawled on the drop curtain at the start of the performance…The Gothenburg Ring’s humanity and clear symbolism have been its biggest dramatic strengths, and made for a triumphant last installment…this has been an unusually moving Ring and somehow a very Swedish one, with its flat-pack plywood visual aesthetic and strong sense of communal responsibility.… there is clarity once again in Alison Chitty’s lucid designs, highly evocative lighting from Paul Pyant and clever choreography of the augmented chorus to form striking tableaux… Rogister, Langridge and the Gothenburgers have given us a Ring with musical and dramatic impact that is absolutely of its time, and entirely of its place. That is no small accomplishment.

Andrew Mellor, Opera News

Siegfried (streamed)

Gothenburg Opera, March 2021

Gothenburg’s shining Siegfried gloriously surmounts the challenges of producing opera in a pandemic...Stephen Langridge’s Gothenburg Ring cycle has as a key theme the destruction of nature, but no one in their worst nightmares could have imagined that the four-year project would come close to being derailed by a pandemic that many argue is the result of mankind’s exploitation of nature and the shrinking habitats of wild animals...The result is impressive in its continuity with the two previous parts Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. Chitty's set design with moveable walls of recycled wood is cleverly used and lit atmospherically by Paul Pyant, in particular in the dark and foreboding opening of Act II where the gloom is pierced by electric torches, picking out items of the junkyard surrounding Fafner’s Neidhöle (literally a hole in the stage). Projections of still pictures or short scenes from the earlier parts of the Ring complement the narration and memories of the characters.

Niklas Smith, Seen and Heard International

The whole production is a triumph in a time of adversity: superb... The setting for Act I is a dismal interior, predominantly grey with a retro-stove as its centrepiece... The second act presents a dark, derelict netherworld littered with the detritus of our time: broken cars, a fridge that ends up holding Mime's head, and a TV screen...A scrapyard is an unlikely setting for forest murmurs; but the invention is miraculous, bike handlebars acting as Siegfried's 'reed' before he takes up his horn.

Colin Clarke, Opera Now - staging ***** music *****

The team of Stephen Langridge (director), Alison Chitty (design) and Paul Pyant (lighting) produced a quietly radical Parsifal at the Royal Opera in 2013, finding both beauty and horror in unexpected corners... Their Ring in Gothenburg pursues a no less subtle course of rebellion against some tenaciously held conventions and traditions in staging Wagner. This is billed as a “green” Ring by an environmentally friendly opera house. It’s a notion which, I fancy, would have intrigued Wagner the theorist, dreamer and pragmatist... Some small touches make big effects in an opera of one-to-one dialogues and down-to-earth settings. Brünnhilde’s grey wig illustrates more succinctly than reams of backstory exegesis that promises of eternal youth mean as little in the Ring as they do in a face-cream advert. In Fafner’s bedraggled locks and dirty council-worker tabard is captured the modern image of the miser and loner, inspiring a pity worthy of his dying words.

Peter Quantrill, The Arts Desk ****

One of Langridge’s most resonant tools is his team of ‘narrators’ – ever-present, acting stagehands who have a way of pulling everything back down to earth without debasing the work’s overwhelming emotional power. Here, they rolled their eyes at Mime and Siegfried’s father-son squabbling and gazed at the hero in encouragement as he got tantalizingly close to moments of revelation. With an almost melancholic sensitivity, they had a way of underlining the reality and relevance in a story that’s all home truths made fantasy fiction

Andrew Mellor, Opera Magazine

In this Siegfried, the predatory drive on nature has left behind a single large scrap yard, where the dragon Fafner incubates the treasure with the magic ring...In the filmed stream version, which here replaces the production missed in November, one gets advantageously close to the worst hero Siegfried and his dysfunctional family situation.

Camilla Lundberg, SVT Nyheter

Göteborg Opera's gleaming new Siegfried, pandemic style...Allison Chitty’s minimalist stage designs are symbolically evocative throughout

Katherine Syer, Bachtrack

Director Stephen Langridge's emphasis on environmental destruction is clear and contemporary…The idea of sustainability is repeated in scenography and costumes, where Alison Chitty used used, recyclable material; granite gray fittings and debris aesthetics break the blazing fire of the projections.

Karin Helander, SVD Kultur

Something new is born in the stripped-down and repetitive, in the necessary distances between the singers…Much can be recognized from the previous sets of “Das Rheingold” and “Die Walküre”…In the middle act of “Siegfried”, which takes place near the dragon Fafner's cave, the furniture from “Walküre” has become a junkyard with old stoves, elements, cardboard boxes, broken cars, discarded TVs, piles of car tires. It is sunny and sad, a world of remnants. But in the ugliness there is at the same time something uplifting.

Magnus Haglund, Göteborgs-Posten

Director Stephen Langridge has toned down the mythological in The Ring. Giants, nibelungs, gods, demigods all become humans like you and me…Alison Chitty's realistic rubbish scenography fits the concept nicely where suddenly single luminous door frames mark a change for the Wanderer


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 ****

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.
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