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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Complicite’s acclaimed production, conceived and directed by Simon McBurney, and based on Olga Tokarczuk’s genre-defying novel is playing at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 19 - 22 April.

Preview by Arabella Neville-Rolfe

Award-winning, international touring company Complicité (The Encounter, Can I Live?) comes to the Belgrade Theatre this April with their acclaimed production of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, conceived and directed by their Artistic Director and Co-Founder Simon McBurney. The piece is based on Nobel Prize-Winner Olga Tokarczuk’s genre-defying novel of the same name. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead will play at the Belgrade Weds 19 – Saturday 22 April, with a press performance on Wednesday 19 April.

The ensemble cast features long standing Complicité collaborators, alongside new performers working with the company for the very first time. Kathryn Hunter will play Janina Duszejko – a former engineer, environmentalist, devoted astrologer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake. She is joined by Thomas Arnold, Johannes Flaschberger, Amanda Hadingue, Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, Weronika Maria, Tim McMullan, César Sarachu, Sophie Steer and Alexander Uzoka.

The story begins in the depths of winter in a small community on a remote mountainside, as men from the local hunting club begin to die in mysterious circumstances. Janina Duszejko has her suspicions. She has been watching the animals with whom the community shares their isolated, rural home, and she believes they are acting strangely…

Tokarczuk’s novel caused a seismic reaction in her native Poland due to its defiant attack on authoritarian structures, with right-wing press branding the writer an ‘eco-terrorist’ and national traitor. This playful, anarchic noir was translated into English in 2018 by Antonia Lloyd-Jones for Fitzcarraldo Editions. It is the first English language stage adaptation of the novel and the first time Tokarczuk’s work has been adapted for the UK stage.

A philosophical and poetic murder mystery, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a rallying cry for nature and a love-letter to the poetry of Blake. At its heart it is a playful and profound work that asks us to consider what it means to live in harmony with the world around us, our place in the ecosystem, and the perilous consequences we all face if our connection to the natural world is lost.

Collaborating with McBurney on the project are set and costume designer Rae Smith, lighting designer Paule Constable, sound designer Christopher Shutt, video designer Dick Straker, dramaturgs Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook and Kirsty Housley provides additional direction. Completing the creative team are design assistant William Fricker, lighting associate Lucia Sanchez and sound associate Ella Walhstrӧm.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is the latest in a series of Complicité projects that urgently address the destruction of the planet. Figures In Extinction which focused on humans’ disregard for animal life, is a collaboration with Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and Nederlands Dans Theater which recently won a prestigious Swan award and will receive its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April 2023. Can I Live? a film conceived, written and performed by Fehinti Balogun, which was presented as part of the official programme for COP26, highlighted the social injustices caused and inflamed by climate change. Complicité is a founding member of the Culture Declares Emergency initiative. Much of McBurney’s (an active member of Stop Ecocide) and the Company’s work focuses on the state of our planet and art’s responsibility in encouraging activism.

Complicité is one of Europe’s leading theatre companies. Its work is characterised by an inherent playfulness and made through a deeply researched, highly collaborative process rooted in the belief that all aspects of theatre should challenge the limits of theatrical form. Recent Complicité productions include Beware of Pity, The Encounter, The Master and Margarita, Shun-kin and A Disappearing Number. The company is led by director Simon McBurney, in collaboration with a wide circle of associates.

Arabella Neville-Rolfe


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