Gregory Doran's gripping modern-dress production featured Antony Sher and Harriet Walter as the Macbeths.

A short-haired woman looks intently at a bearded man holding up a bloody hand
After the bloody deed: Lady Macbeth (Harriet Walter) and Macbeth (Antony Sher), 1999, Swan Theatre
Photo by Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale © RSC Browse and license our images


Gregory Doran’s 1999 fast paced production was generally thought to be the best staged since Trevor Nunn's Macbeth in 1976, which also had no interval. Staging it in the 400-seater Swan Theatre gave the discovery process more scope: "its naturally stripped-back look allows the language to create the world and gives the audience the creepy sense of being enfolded in the Macbeth household.” Gregory Doran interview with Paul Taylor, The Independent, 10 November 1999.


Antony Sher and Harriet Walter were compelling as the central couple whose marital and psychological disintegration propelled the tragedy.

Present fears are less than horrible imaginings” Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 3

At the beginning of rehearsals, the company were asked to explore their deepest fears. Eerie foreboding was also felt by the audience from the opening scene, when, after a deafening thunderclap, they were plunged into darkness and the witches began their incantations. An unnerving drumbeat, composed by Adrian Lee, punctuated the action and heightened the nightmarish atmosphere.


The modern setting was non-specific although the khaki-clad witches and soldiers were evocative of the 1990's Balkan Conflict. Doran was more interested in conveying an impression of brutality and horror.


The production had a strong visual sense as a result of Gregory Doran’s staging, Stephen Brimson Lewis’ design and the lighting of Tim Mitchell, with its stark contrast between light and dark. There were some genuinely creepy moments when faceless apparitions bulged through the fake back wall and Birnam Wood really did seem to come to Dunsinane in a gloomy swirl.

In the following galleries you can see more photos of the sets, including behind the fake wall, and sketches of prop weapons and candles.

Photo of Macbeth 1999 set in Swan Theatre showing open trap, central doorway at back and gauze netting above
Set for Macbeth, 1999, Swan Theatre, designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis
Photo by Malcolm Davies © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images


Featuring the original cast, including Antony Sher and Harriet Walter, in 2001 the production was filmed at the Roundhouse in London. It was shot in a gritty style using the edgy techniques of fly-on-the-wall documentaries. 

A group of four people on a film set examine a script in front of a banquet table
Designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, director Gregory Doran and stage managers on the film set of Macbeth, 2001, at the Roundhouse
Photo by Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale © Illuminations Media\RSC Browse and license our images


In an interview for the film Gregory Doran explained the rationale behind the adaptation: “Macbeth is, in many ways, the most filmic of Shakespeare’s plays with its short, quick-fire scenes and its hurtling, dynamic momentum. In the film I tried to capture its raw energy and dangerous intimacy.”


See Antony Sher performing the Act 5 Scene 5 speech “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow”  (Illuminations Media Ltd). The Macbeth 2001 DVD is available from our shop.

In the gallery below, you can explore more images from the Macbeth film as well as key extracts from the script.

Macbeth programme cover showing bearded Antony Sher headshot, swirling smoke and Harriet Walter with eyes closed



Swan Theatre, 1999

Jeff Alexander - Soldier

Richard Armitage - Angus

Diana Beck – Lady Macduff, Weird Sister

Ken Bones - Banquo

Glenn Chapman – Macbeth’s Servant

Nigel Cooke - Macduff

John Dougall - Malcolm

Noma Dumezweni – Weird Sister

Graeme Flynn - Young Macduff (alt)

Jonathan Gumbley – Fleance (alt)

Polly Kemp – Gentlewoman, Weird Sister

John Killoran – Bloody Captain, Menteith

Trevor Martin – Doctor, Old Man

Guy Moore - Lennox

Stephen Noonan – Porter, Seyton

Joseph O'Conor - Duncan

Lee Rice – Fleance (alt)

Antony Sher - Macbeth

Harriet Walter – Lady Macbeth

Paul Webster - Ross

Robert Whitelock – Donalbain, Young Siward

Gareth Williams – Young Macduff (alt)




Director - Gregory Doran

Designer - Stephen Brimson Lewis

Lighting designer -Tim Mitchell

Music - Adrian Lee

Movement - Sian Williams

Fight arranger - Terry King


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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