Creating the world of Macbeth - Set Designer Basia Bińkowska

18 Jan 2024

Set designer Basia Bińkowska has created a world for ETT's Macbeth that is both epic and intimate. It's able to create the sweeping landscapes of the play while bringing the audience into the domestic lives of its characters. But it also has to do its job for the many different theatres it's touring to and still create the same feeling. 

We spoke to Basia about the specific challenges of designing a set for touring and her inspiration for the design you see in this powerful production...

Touring Set

One of the most challenging aspects while designing the world for our production has been the fact that we need to approach our first venue, Shakespeare North Playhouse, very differently than the other theatres on this tour. From the start of the process we already knew we wouldn’t be able to replicate the historical architecture of the frons scaenae and the specific layout we're working with in this venue for the rest of the tour.

In our heads it felt like we were designing two separate shows while keeping some of the most important elements and the aesthetic of the world the same. It’s worth mentioning that Shakespeare North has massively inspired us in the design journey. While visiting the theatre for the first time we realised we definitely wanted to use the space behind the frons and extend the world by creating corridors offstage and inviting the audience to experience through the video design. This idea has also been a big part of designing our touring set.

We wanted to give an impression that the world of the show extends far beyond. We invite the audience to imagine what happens behind the closed doors while following Macbeth’s psychological journey to the corridor offstage, where he commits the first crime of the play.

On our tour we visit a plethora of very different theatre venues, which has also required our set to be adaptable and versatile. We open at Northern Stage, which provides us with great almost panoramic width and then we go to New Wolsey Theatre where we have to significantly decrease our playing space. The show will also visit Dubai, where we need to make sure the production design meets the scale of an opera house.

From Domestic into Epic

From the start of our design process we were very interested in exploring the domestic world of the couple’s home and the interior that could be the right background for the character’s journey.

The dramaturgical decision to start the show with Lady Macbeth waiting  for the return of her husband from war, very early on led us to the first image of this production – Lady Macbeth alone within the empty house. We focus on the domestic aspect of the space where you can capture pedantic details happening around the crimes but also try to understand the larger meaning of “home” in the play for all of the characters.

What it means to come back from war, experience the joy and celebration of victory to then gather to grieve the death of your king the very next day. And as we follow this society and its kingdom being destroyed and traumatised – we take apart this home, take the story to a more abstract world and space towards the end.


Nature and its metaphorical journey in the play has also been an important part of the process, and we explored how to visually represent the prophetic elements of the show. We always wanted to bring the story of Birnam Wood from the beginning of the show with a scene where Lady Macbeth could plant the seedling of the forest at the start. And as the demolished environment and nature falls apart, it responds to the main character’s actions and takes revenge.

Macbeth runs at Bristol Old Vic from 25 Jan – 10 Feb. Limited tickets left! Find out more