Wuthering Heights – Meet the Creatives: Costume Designer

Written by Andrea
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13th April 2023

To accompany Inspector Sands’ production of Wuthering Heights, we have designed a rich online education pack to support the GCSE & A Level Drama and A Level English Lit curricula. These resources will offer students access to behind-the-scenes materials and insight into the processes of making Wuthering Heights, including some interviews with our creative team.

Next up, we hear from costume designer Johanna Mårtensson:

What drew you to this project?

I met Inspector Sands in a production they did in Stockholm – they transferred The Lounge, which they had previously toured in England to Sweden. I really liked the way they worked; investigative and process based. So, I was very excited when they asked me to be part of this project.

What was the starting point for the costume design? Were there any specific influences in how the ideas for the costume developed? 

The script is the starting point. The playing with period – that we are telling this story from today, investigating the similarities between modern day society and the period it is originally set in – was in this case already in the script and very much what the costume design is based on.

Can you tell us about the key design elements of the costumes in Wuthering Heights?

The strongest theme that hits me with Wuthering Heights is the belonging or not belonging. That every family and every society have codes and norms. Heathcliff is the victim of racism, of being forced to live in this family/society without ever being fully accepted. Dress codes is one very strong norm and I choose to give the “society” the dress code of checked tweed (that to me is a very British dress code, that I found a lot when researching the period but also still today on the royal family, as well as in high fashion and street fashion. I come from Sweden and if I would have done this production there, I would have dressed the family/society all in black.

Illustrations of costume designs for Wuthering Heights

Tell us about your role before and through a rehearsal process – what sorts of things do you do?

Before the rehearsal period my role is, together with the rest of the artistic team, to first understand what we want to tell with the story and then to find a visual language to tell that story. When the rehearsal period starts, I feel it’s about being attentive and open to new ideas – major elements to the design have been added during this period – such as bringing the weather, the dirt, and the mud into the costumes.

What research do you do as a costume designer, particularly for a role like this in such an iconic story? Does the original novel provide a helpful document or is it also a distraction?

I researched the period fashion, even though we decided early on not to be rigid about the period. To me it was important to read and understand the original story and I read it many times.

Can you describe how you worked with the other members of the creative team? How did what you do evolve throughout the process in relation to the other elements of the production?

I listen and talk to creative team; the set design is the visual ground those characters are living in, so that, as well as the script, are my starting points. Alongside Lucinka – the Director, and team, we discussed each character closely as I did the drawings. When rehearsals starts and the actors makes the characters their own, it is always interesting to realise how those ideas are in a way theoretical until the actors bring the characters to life.

Illustrations of costume designs for Wuthering Heights

What skills or techniques are essential in your role?

Drawing is my key to visualise and communicate my ideas.

What should audiences expect from the production?

A very strong story about the cost of social exclusion told with warmth, humour, and wit.

What are you most excited about for this production?

Everything. To see what it becomes.

If you could describe the show in three words, what would they be?

Emotions, radicalisation, humanity.

The full education pack will be available in April 2023, please click here to fill in a form to be told when the resource is on our website.

We will also be delivering in-person workshops in schools throughout the tour. To find out more about our education offer, please email: [email protected]

Coming to Northampton, Oxford, Coventry, London, and Newcastle, Wuthering Heights will have its world premiere at Royal & Derngate, Northampton from 24 April – 6 May 2023, before touring to Oxford Playhouse from 9-13 May, Warwick Arts Centre from 16-18 May, Rose Theatre, Kingston from 23-27 May; concluding at Northern Stage from 6-10 June.

Visit the Wuthering Heights show page here to book your tickets!

Costume sketches © Johanna Mårtensson.