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The world premiere of Complicité’s Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead tours to Oxford Playhouse

The international touring company Complicité presents a new work for the theatre Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, directed by Simon McBurney, and playing at Oxford Playhouse from Wed 1 to Sat 4 March 2023.

Based on the darkly comic, anarchic noir novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk, which caused a seismic reaction in Tokarczuk’s native Poland due to its defiant attack on authoritarian structures, with right-wing press branding the writer an ‘eco-terrorist’ and national traitor.

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 and dramaturgs Sian Ejiwumi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook. The ensemble cast in Oxford features Thomas Arnold, Johannes Flaschberger, Tamzin Griffin, Amanda Hadingue (playing Janina in Oxford), Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, Weronika Maria, Tim McMullan, César Sarachu, Sophie Steer, and Alexander Uzoka.

Following its run at Oxford Playhouse, the production will play at London’s Barbican, before further national tour dates and then international dates in May and June 2023 including Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Theatre Amsterdam and L'Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, Paris.

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.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Deadis the latest in a series of Complicité projects that urgently address the destruction of the planet. Figures In Extinction[1.0], created with Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite in early 2022, focused on humans’ disregard for animal life, whilst Can I Live? a film conceived by and starring actor and climate justice activist Fehinti Balogun, and co-directed by McBurney, highlighted the social injustices caused and inflamed by climate change. In November 2021, Complicité were invited to present Can I Live? at COP26.

During the tour, Complicité will continue its award-winning engagement work with secondary schools and community groups, using Drive Your Plow as a creative starting point. Complicité Associates will work with secondary schools exploring ecological themes through the company’s trademark devising techniques. An in-depth free, online resource pack will also be made available globally. The community engagement programme will see the company work with older immigrant women experiencing social isolation, spotlighting their lives, stories and rich cultural roots, and celebrating the inherent wisdom of those who have lived long lives.