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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Based on the novel by Olga Tokarczuk. Directed by Simon McBurney

Weds 19 to Sat 22 Apr 2023

The world-renowned international touring company Complicité presents a new work for the theatre, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, directed by Simon McBurney.

Based on Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk’s novel of the same name, the darkly comic, anarchic noir 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.

The story begins in the depths of winter in a small community on a remote Polish mountainside. Men from the local hunting club are dying in mysterious circumstances and Janina Duszejko – an eccentric older local woman, environmentalist, devoted astrologer 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…

Engaged in fierce resistance against the injustices around her, Janina refuses to be a prisoner of society and gender. Her actions ask questions both of the male world which surrounds her and of our deeper human intentions: what does it mean to be human and what does it mean to be animal, and can we separate the two? Why is the killing of animals sport and that of humans murder?

A thought-provoking, wry and otherworldly murder mystery, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a tale about the cosmos, poetry, and the limitations and possibilities of activism.

Drive Your Plow will star Kathryn Hunter, Thomas Arnold, Johannes Flaschberger, Amanda Hadingue, Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, Weronika Maria, Tim McMullan, César Sarachu, Sophie Steer and Alexander Uzoka.

The role of Janina Duszejko will be performed by Amanda Hadingue on Thursday 20 April at 2pm.

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“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. 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.”
Complicité Artistic Director, Simon McBurney

A new Complicité show isn’t just a devised play: it’s a theatrical event. At the company’s inimitable best, it is a ticket to another world.
Time Out

“one of the most fully-immersive theatre pieces ever created”
New York Times on Complicité’s award-winning production of The Encounter.

A Complicité co-production with Barbican London, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Bristol Old Vic, Comédie de Genève, 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.

Adapted from the novel by Olga Tokarczuk
Directed by Simon McBurney
Set and Costume Design Rae Smith
Lighting Design Paule Constable
Sound Design Christopher Shutt
Video Design Dick Straker
Additional Direction Kirsty Housley
Dramaturgy by Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook
Movement Direction Toby Sedgwick
Original compositions Richard Skelton
Assistant Director Gemma Brockis
Associate Costume Designer Johanna Coe
Wigs Designer Susanna Peretz
Original novel translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
CDG Casting Amy Ball
Artwork by Patryk Hardziej



What does it mean to grow up in a world in a state of emergency? And how do we contend with the ecological legacy we’re leaving behind us as we age? In this discussion we’ll confront the difficult questions around how we share the weight of the climate and ecological emergency across the generations, and how we can meaningfully work together, uniting the unique perspectives of the young and old to combat the impossible.  Join us for a panel conversation bringing together Complicite’s Executive Director, Amber Massie-Blomfield, with members of our multigenerational Belgrade HUBs and representatives from Wild Earth and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to unpick what we can do by uniting the unique perspectives of the young and old to combat the impossible.

Please be aware that there are roadworks forcing the night time closure of part of the A45 near Coventry from Monday 17 to Friday 21 April between the hours of 19:00 – 5:00.

Download the Digital Programme