Michael Boyd's inventive Macbeth was the first new production in the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

A woman tries to hush a bloody man holding daggers by placing her hand on his mouth
Macbeth (Jonathan Slinger) and Lady Macbeth (Aislín McGuckin), 2011, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images


Launching the RSC's 50th anniversary season, Michael Boyd's production succeeded in making the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre "feel as claustrophobic as any studio space and to revitalise the play’s familiar terrors, so that they seem fresh-minted and newly appalling." Charles Spencer, Telegraph, 26 April 2011.


One of the most striking aspects of the production was Boyd's decision to have the witches' prophecies spoken by children, first seen suspended from the rafters and later appearing as the ghosts of Macduff's murdered offspring. 


Jonathan Slinger's Macbeth was a creepy and mesmeric serial killer, "torn between terror and rage... a vicious cornered weakling" Libby Purves, Times, 27 April 2011.

Aislín McGuckin's feisty Lady Macbeth bolstered her unstable husband, treating him like the child she never had. Their marriage was one of "nerve-racking intensity", Michael Coveney, The Stage, 27 April 2011.


The setting for Boyd's "wildly original production" was a Protestant Reformation that had attacked religious imagery "symbolised, in Tom Piper’s set, by fractured stained-glass windows and desecrated religious icons”  Michael Billington, Guardian, 27 April 2011. Designer Tom Piper's disconcerting sets combined with Jean Kalman's lighting to heighten the sense of evil foreboding.

Mournful melodies, composed by Craig Armstrong, were played by three cellists on an upper gallery above the main stage. This was a world of malign magic where the dead remained onstage as witnesses and Jonathan Slinger's Macbeth could imagine Banquo slitting his throat.


In an article for the production's programme, designer Tom Piper and production manager Pete Griffin discussed the practicalities and problems of staging an RSC show.
Piper explained how working in the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre affected design elements, for example its deep basement, measuring seven metres, offered more scope than the one metre depth under the Courtyard Theatre.


Discover more about designer Tom Piper's work on the production in the following gallery, which includes photos of set model boxes as well as his sketches of sets and costumes.

Three children sit with their back to the stage as a crowned figure approaches them with a weapon and three cellists play in a gallery above
Macbeth (Jonathan Slinger) is confronted by three supernatural children, 2011, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images
Theatrical poster for Macbeth 2011 showing a crowned man, part of his face obscured by a red superimposed woman



Madeline Appiah – Lady-in-Waiting

Kadeem Banks - Fleance (alt.)

Jason Battersby - Child (alt.)

Jamie Beamish – Seyton

Charlie Blackwood - Child (alt.)

Sienna Callen-Franklin - Child (alt.)

Howard Charles – Malcolm

Thomas Ford - Child (alt.)

Scott Handy – Ross

Hal Hewetson - Child (alt.)

Aidan Kelly – Macduff

Tallulah Markham - Child (alt.)

Caroline Martin – Lady Macduff

Jacob Mauchlen - Child (alt.)

Des McAleer – Duncan

David McGranaghan – Doctor at the Court of Edward the Confessor

Aislín McGuckin – Lady Macbeth

Nikesh Patel – Donalbain

Daniel Percival – Lennox

Anwar Ridwan - Fleance (alt.)

Daniel Rose – Angus

Isabella Sanders - Child (alt.)

Gabriel Siweniku - Fleance (alt.)

Jonathan Slinger – Macbeth

Steve Toussaint – Banquo

Charlie Walters - Child (alt.)

Christopher Wright – Doctor



Director - Michael Boyd

Designer - Tom Piper

Lighting designer - Jean Kalman

Sound designer - Andrew Franks

Music - Craig Armstrong

Movement - Struan Leslie

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

You may also like