Designer Alicia Clements has created the set and costumes for The Father. Here, she discusses her approach to designing the Parisian apartment in which the play begins.
What kind of apartment did you set out to create?
I wanted it to be a convincing Parisian period apartment, but not in a cookie-cutter way. I didn’t want to conform too closely to that classical Haussmann architecture – very white walls, lots of intricate detailing, parquetry floors. It needs to subvert some of those expectations and yet still be convincing. So, I looked at a lot of apartments that have been renovated by artists, writers, artisans, architects; people who have designed a space with the bones of an old apartment but have married the antique with contemporary ideas.
One interesting touch is the inclusion of a skylight. Even having a ceiling onstage is unusual, so why this choice?
We couldn’t have windows on the walls for a number of reasons – the priority was to have doors to allow entrances and exits, plus there’s the egginess of showing whatever’s beyond the window. Still, I wanted to give a sense of a natural source of light. There’s a lot of talk about what time it is and the time of day jumps around from scene to scene. The skylight helps tell that story of where and when things are happening. The folding doors also have a rippled glass to be able to bring in a sense of light and shadow, without having windows that look out onto a street.
The colour palette you’ve used is evocative of Paris in itself. How did you land on it?
I repainted the model several times until I arrived at a combination of colours that felt right.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Paris, and had a really strong sense of the colours in my head, but they weren’t traditional floor-and-wall colours, so it took time to work out how to achieve it. I wanted to capture grey-blue shadows, contrasting with the amber warmth and masculine tones of tortoise-shell and cognac – colours that spoke to me of John Bell’s character in the play.
I eventually realised that what I was imagining was the colour palette of Paris rooftops. Terracotta chimney tops and worn down slate against a pale grey sky. That was the colour scheme I wanted.
The Father, 19 Aug – 21 Oct 2017, Wharf 1 Theatre
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