‘A winding, imaginative, genre-defying story. Part murder mystery, part fairy tale, Drive Your Plow is a thrilling philosophical examination of the ways in which some living creatures are privileged above others.’TIME, book review of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
What a way to celebrate Complicité’s 40th anniversary!
In the world premiere of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, a new work conceived and directed by their Artistic Director and Co-Founder Simon McBurney for the theater, Complicité (The Encounter, Can I Live?) today announced a full casting for the company. It is adapted from Olga Tokarczuk’s dark, intelligent novel of the same name.
Tokarczuk is a Polish writer, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, and a figure I’m extremely proud to introduce to my friends and connections whenever we talk about novels. Being Polish myself, Tokarczuk’s strong thoughts on ecology and feminism hit close to home, so hearing about this production just made my day.
“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” – story
Regarded as an eccentric outsider, the story unfolds through Janina’s eyes, veering between the comedic and macabre. Her actions question the patriarchal world which surrounds her, our deeper human intentions and the value placed on the lives of animals in contrast to our own.
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…
When “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” premiered in Poland, I remember how many emotions it caused, due to its defiant attack on the concept of modern wild game hunting, catholic church’s ethics and authoritarian structures, with right-wing press branding the writer an ‘eco-terrorist’ and national traitor. Even MPs and celebrities commented on the book, and later, the movie adaptation of it (“Spoor”, or “Pokot”, released in 2017), was selected to compete for the Golden Bear in the main competition section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and won the Alfred Bauer Prize (Silver Bear).
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.
“Olga Tokarczuk’s savage, funny and madly beautiful “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” is being brought to the stage by Complicité with a multi-national ensemble made up of long-term collaborators such as César Sarachu (Street of Crocodiles, Master and Margarita), Tim McMullan (Lucie Cabrol, Mnemonic, Master and Margarita), Johannes Flaschberger (Lucie Cabrol, Foe, Mnemonic, Measure for Measure and Master and Margarita) and a new generation of exceptional actors. We are particularly thrilled and delighted to announce that leading the company, in the role of protagonist Janina, is Kathryn Hunter.
But we cannot, nor would we want to, avoid declaring that we are also making this piece in a time of deep mourning. Following the death of my comrade, compagnero and brother in arms Marcello Magni – co-founder of Complicité and Kathryn’s beloved husband – Kathryn and I feel it is a profound, beautiful and healing act to come together to create a piece of theatre inspired by this witty, poignant and ferocious work.”Simon McBurney
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. Casting is subject to change at some venues.
Supported by a pan-European network of co-producers, the production begins at Theatre Royal Plymouth (1-3 December 2022) followed by a 3-week run at Bristol Old Vic (19 Jan – 11 Feb), dates at Oxford Playhouse (1-4 March) ahead of a national opening – 20 March – at the Barbican, London (15 March – 1 April). The production will then tour throughout 2023 with further UK dates at Nottingham Playhouse (4-8 April), Belgrade Theatre Coventry (19-22 April) and The Lowry (25-29 April) before international dates in May and June 2023 including Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, and L’Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Paris. Tour dates in England are now on sale (http://www.complicite.org/).