John Simm   Dervla Kirwan


By William Shakespeare

Festival Theatre
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i News

A spellbinding spectacle about the corrupting nature of power

Broadway World

Paul Miller’s production is slick and assured


John Simm and Dervla Kirwan are masterful

Portsmouth News

Much celebrated for his forthright bravery, Macbeth is a state hero. After the bloody defeat of a rebel army, he encounters a trio of strangers who predict that one day he will be King. Having delivered their ambiguous message, they vanish, leaving a mind cracked open.

Fearing that her husband lacks the vital drive to take charge of his fate, Lady Macbeth invokes her stronger nature to fulfil their destiny. The plan she hatches will trigger an uncontrollable train of events, hurtling two corrupted souls to the heart of darkness.

Shakespeare’s great tragedy shows ambition falling headlong into tyranny and chaos. As appearances increasingly deceive, the nature of reality itself comes into question.

Paul Miller is Artistic Director of the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. He was previously Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres, where his productions included John Simm’s Hamlet.

John Simm makes his Chichester debut in the title role. Among his extensive screen and stage work, recent credits include Strangers, Collateral and Doctor Who on television, and Pinter at the Pinter: Six (West End).

Dervla Kirwan’s stage work includes Goneril in King Lear (2017), Frankie and Johnny (2014) and Uncle Vanya (2012) at Chichester and, most recently, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Young Vic). She also appeared in Strangers alongside John Simm.

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Our programmes are designed to be the perfect insightful companion to the production. In this programme Eugene Sadler-Smith writes about the corrupting effects of power through history, a gallery of Shakespeare staged at CFT over the decades in addition to rehearsal photography and biographies of the company of Macbeth.

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Prologue tickets available



Simm offers a strikingly intelligent interpretation of the role. This is a drama that unfolds in the wide open spaces of nature, with a design approach that’s almost operatic in style – generous use of projections accentuating the broad picture, a complex sound palette. When visual effects align with the action, the result is spectacular.

i News

A spellbinding spectacle about the corrupting nature of power. Michael Balogun and Beatriz Romilly particularly stand out as Macduff and Malcolm, respectively; Balogun is controlled yet forceful, and shows Macduff to be a man of principle - and Romilly brings a naïvety and vulnerability to Malcolm, as well as a hidden reserve of strength. There are several great soliloquies in the play, but Simm's interpretation of two in particular are the highlights of the entire production; the combination of curiosity, temptation and fear that underlies "Is this a dagger which I see before me" is enthralling, and the quiet grief and understated performance of "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." is genuinely moving.

Broadway World

A performance that gets richer as Macbeth sinks into desperate tyranny. Simm captures precisely the stages of Macbeth’s disintegration. There are daggers in his smiles, a pathological insecurity that propels a killing spree and, at the last, a spiritual exhaustion as he sits on his throne awaiting death. Simm is one of those rare Macbeths who becomes more complex as the play proceeds.




Paul Miller's production is slick and assured. Simon Daw's impressive design is cleverly impactful


This production mesmerises not because of costume nor even the faultless dramatization by its players – but because it so utterly and beautifully captures that sense of the grand sweep of Scotland. Rarely has historic drama looked quite so beguiling or magnificent. It is a brave step to conclude your summer season with Shakespeare. But this is a masterpiece in every way – artistic director Daniel Evans has shrewdly saved the best to last.

West Sussex County Times

A scintillating central performance from John Simm. Simm’s is a Macbeth made magnetic by murder, increasingly commanding, particularly when he so misguidedly believes he is invincible. Dervla Kirwan is no less compelling as Lady M – and again the virtue lies in the fact that Kirwan offers us a different kind of Lady Macbeth. At first you think she is simply far too nice to be quite so evil, but Kirwan and Simm give us a couple clearly passionately in love.

Chichester Observer

Simm and Kirwan are masterful. John Simm's Macbeth is powerful and focussed. His delivery of the ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech is revelatory. Likewise, the supreme Dervla Kirwan as Lady M, towers over the text. Her madness, as it dawns, is quiet, brooding; that most purple of passages as she tries to clean blood from her hands as she sleepwalks, is wonderful and her whimpers as she exits the scene almost – but not quite! – raise sympathy for this most unsympathetic of Shakespeare’s women.

Portsmouth News

Simm’s commanding stage presence is dominating, and even when he sinks into the character’s darkest moments, he is still quick-witted, delivering comical remarks throughout. It was gripping like nothing I have seen on stage before and nice to see Chichester pushing staging to the limit and being daring.

Theatre South East

John Simm is excellent as Macbeth, swaggering hero and yet neurotic he slips through the many moods of the character with ease and masterfully shapes his lines into dismissive asides. He’s equalled and perhaps even surpassed by Dervla Kirwan’s Lady Macbeth, not for her the Machiavellian schemer, this is a wife devoted to her husband and family.

In the Cheap Seats

Dervla Kirwan gives us an intelligent, plausible Lady Macbeth. Her sleep walking scene is one of the best I have ever seen – chilling and pitiful.

Sardines Magazine

Cast & Creatives


Cast List

John Simm


Dervla Kirwan

Lady Macbeth

Heider Ali

2nd Murderer

Michael Balogun


Jacob Blazdell


David Burnett

1st Murderer/Menteith

Roseanna Frascona

Weird Sister

Leah Gayer

Weird Sister

Lauren Grace

Weird Sister

Stuart Laing


Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo


Avital Lvova


Harvey McGuinness


Matthew O'Shea

Young Macduff

Harry Peacock


Noah Peirson

Young Macduff

Isabel Pollen

Lady Macduff

Christopher Ravenscroft


Beatriz Romilly


Nathan Welsh


Creative team

Cast List

Paul Miller


Simon Daw


Mark Doubleday

Lighting Designer

Max Pappenheim

Music and Sound Designer

Tim Reid

Video Designer

Angela Gasparetto

Movement Director

Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown

Fight Directors

Serena Hill

Casting Director



Director Paul Miller on Macbeth

Our production of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Macbeth, led by John Simm and Dervla Kirwan as the corrupted couple, opens in the Festival Theatre on 21 September and will mark a homecoming for director Paul Miller.

‘I was born in Chichester and my family goes back several generations on the south coast,’ he recalls. ‘I saw a lot of the summer programmes in the late 70s through to the mid 80s, so it was my theatrical upbringing’.

Now Artistic Director of the prestigious Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, Paul has directed John Simm in several new plays (one of which brought John an Olivier Award nomination), and in a successful production of Hamlet at Sheffield Crucible. ‘Practically as the lights came down on the last performance, he turned to me and said ‘I want to do Macbeth next’.

The star of such hit TV series as Strangers, Collateral, Dr Who and Life on Mars, Paul points out that John is ‘a remarkable stage actor; if you’ve never seen him on stage you have to take this chance, because he’s got a real stage presence and voice and intelligence. That quality of nervous, flickering thoughtfulness that he brings is perfect for this part.’

With its supernatural elements of witches and apparitions, combined with violent action, poetry and edge-of-the-seat storytelling, Macbeth is a potent brew. How will Paul be approaching the production?

‘We’re trying to conjure a world that feels recognisable but a little remote, like some frozen part of Northern Europe, maybe 100 years ago, but where a physical brutality is still very much part of life.

‘Macbeth starts on a journey into his own mind. He’s both delusional but also very self-aware and fascinated by the inner contours of his own mind and his soul. One of the reasons I didn’t want to put it in a modern political setting is precisely because it might reduce it. It’s most potent when it exists as a metaphor. But I think it’s very easy to see all sorts of contemporary parallells: people make one terrible decision and that leads inexorably to another bad decision, and they get more and more boxed into their own position.

‘I also think it paints a very brilliant, vivid picture of the isolation that comes with power. The more power is exercised arbitrarily, or irrationally, the more fundamentally isolated the person becomes.’

Finally, Paul adds, ‘Macbeth is a very famous play and in theatre circles there’s a tendency for people to ask a director: ‘What are you going to do with it?’. I always think it’s terribly important to remember that on any given performance, for a sizable number of people this will be a story which they’ve never seen before. So I look forward, hopefully, to telling the story freshly, for them.’

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Running Time
2 hours and 50 minutes including the interval