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Complicité to stage world premiere of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Author Olga Tokarczuk © Łukasz Giza
Author Olga Tokarczuk © Łukasz Giza

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is to be brought to the stage.

Complicité will present the world premiere of the piece, based on the novel from Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk. The book was translated into English in 2018 by Antonia Lloyd-Jones for Fitzcarraldo Editions.

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The production is conceived and directed by Simon McBurney in collaboration with Rae Smith (set and costumes), Paule Constable (lighting), Chris Shutt (sound), Dick Straker (video) and Laurence Cook and Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre (dramaturgs), together with Complicité’s Senior Producer Tim Bell and Executive Director Amber Massie-Blomfield.

Casting is to be confirmed.

Drive Your Plow’s story begins in the depths of winter in a small community on a remote Polish mountainside near the Czech-Polish border. Men from the local hunting club are dying in mysterious circumstances and Janina Duszejko – an eccentric 65 year-old local woman, ex-engineer, environmentalist, amateur astronomer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake – 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…

A thought-provoking, wry and other worldly murder mystery, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a love letter to the natural world and the poetry of Blake, the philosopher and poet preoccupied with respecting the natural world. It is also a scathing reproach of toxic masculinity, the treatment of the marginalised, and the hypocrisy of institutional power. At its heart the story asks us to consider what it means to live in harmony with the world around us, humankind’s place in our ecosystem, and the perilous consequences we all face if our connection to the natural world is lost.

The production will preview at Theatre Royal Plymouth (1-3 December 2022) ahead of a national opening – 24 January 2023 – and 3-week run at Bristol Old Vic.

The piece will then tour throughout 2023 with UK dates at Oxford Playhouse (1-4 March), the Barbican (15 March-1 April), Nottingham Playhouse (4-8 April), Belgrade Theatre Coventry (18-22 April) and The Lowry (25-29 April) before international dates in May and June 2023.

Complicité Artistic Director Simon McBurney, said: “Olga Tokarczuk has created an extraordinary world that speaks to my deepest sense of the continuity between humankind and nature – a world where, like a mycelium web, all entities are connected deeply at the roots, unable to exist alone.

“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a tale about the cosmos, poetry, and the limitations and possibilities of activism. Tokarczuk is a prophet for our times who understands us in all our hilarity, messiness, cruelty and animalism, and it is a great privilege to bring to the stage what is surely one of literature’s most urgent accounts of being alive today.”

Author Olga Tokarczuk added: “I am truly delighted and honoured that Complicité has been inspired by my book. The book was born out of anger and powerlessness and in the absolute conviction that we must find new languages in order to be able to speak about deadly serious things. This is because we do not want to listen to those deadly serious things or speak them out. We are afraid of them, and we are afraid of the futures they may bring about.

“We turn on, then, a whole complex system of defence mechanisms, not to hear, not to see and not to talk about them. Theatre is a powerful and influential art; it is one of the most complex and refined forms of communication. It imprints on viewers deep sensations and gives them a meaningful intellectual insight. I share with Complicité a similar sensitivity and an outlook on the world. I believe that the show will enhance my text with dimensions which can come into existence only in direct contact with an audience.”

For more information, visit www.complicite.org


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