Ghosts: A Word With Set Designer Tim Hatley

BY Almeida Theatre   October 31, 2013

As Richard Eyre’s “spellbinding” (The Independent) production of Ghosts continues to captivate audiences, Set Designer Tim Hatley talks about his role in creating the evocative atmosphere of Ibsen‘s classic drama.

Almeida Theatre: What were your initial impressions of the atmosphere of Ghosts? Did any visual reference points immediately come to mind when you read it?

Tim Hatley: I was intrigued by the layers and the unravelling of the web of what was going on with the characters.

I immediately imagined a dark house, closed off from the world, whose walls knew the truth behind them. I became interested in the way we could see into the house. The walls in our set are both transparent and reflective.

I looked at artists such as Hammershoi and other Scandinavian painters, and I looked at period architecture and fashions.

Can you describe your design process for a production like this?

I read the play a few times, then I draw and sketch ideas to discuss ways of using the space with the director. Then I work the ideas up in a 1:25 model to convey scale and how it will fit in the space.

Light is a strong theme throughout Ghosts. What parts of the script / text are most relevant to what you are creating for this production?

The fact that it is set in Norway, the light is already of a particular kind.

The view of mists and fjords is seen through layers of the house in our production. The burning of the orphanage is an important lighting moment, and I wanted to explore fully the rising dawn during the last moments of the play.

What was it about Hammershoi that captured your imagination as a key design reference? How does his work relate to Ibsen’s style of writing?

The ability to convey atmosphere through composition, colour and light is wonderful in this work. Ibsen does the same thing with language. His plays are full of composition, colour and light when you read them.

What’s the most interesting aspect of the design on this show?

This is the first time I have used mirror to such an extent on stage.

Any tips for any budding young set designers?


Ghosts plays at the Almeida Theatre until 23 November 2013. For more information, or to book tickets, click here.