Renowned international touring company Complicité’s world premiere production of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the new stage adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk’s novel of the same name, will play Belgrade Theatre Coventry’s Main Stage from 19 to 22 April 2023. The venue is also one of the production’s co-producing partners.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, directed by Complicité’s artistic director Simon McBurney, has been described as a thought-provoking, wry and other worldly murder mystery, 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.
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. 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.
Complicité’s founding artistic director, Simon McBurney, is one of the most innovative and influential theatre-makers working today. An active member of Stop Ecocide, much of his recent work urgently addresses the destruction of the planet.
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.”
“This production 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 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.”
The Belgrade’s CEO, Laura Elliot and creative director, Corey Campbell added: “We are delighted to be co-producing with Complicité and other prestigious theatres across the UK and wider Europe to bring this new production to Coventry. This is theatre at its best and not to be missed.”
Also in the creative team are set and costume designer Rae Smith, lighting designer Paule Constable, sound designer Christopher Shutt and video designer Dick Straker. Dramaturgy is by Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook, movement direction is by Toby Sedgwick and original compositions are by Richard Skelton.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is presented by Complicité, in a co-production with Barbican London, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Bristol Old Vic, Holland Festival, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, L’Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, The Lowry, The National Theatre of Iceland, Oxford Playhouse, Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen and Theatre Royal Plymouth.
What the critics say
“Visually exciting, technologically slick, and deliciously dark” – ★★★★ Evening Standard
“Undoubtedly one of the greatest theatre companies to ever exist” – ★★★★ Time Out
About Complicité and Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Complicité is an international touring theatre company in a constant state of reinvention. Working across art forms, the company believes that theatre, opera, film, installation, publication and participatory arts can all be sites for the collective act of imagination. A lot of recent work has focused on the state of our planet and art’s responsibility in encouraging activism. This year marks the company’s 40th anniversary.
The Belgrade Theatre is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead runs from 19-22 April 2023 at the Belgrade Theatre, Belgrade Square, Coventry CV1 1GS. Running time: approximately three hours. Tickets from £23 including booking fee. Age guidance: 14-plus. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!