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.
‘A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.’
William Blake was an English poet, painter and printmaker of the 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a nonconformist - a radical, anti-authority figure and an animal activist who expressed his ideas in words and images.
One of the greatest poets in the English language, he was largely unrecognised during his life but is now considered one of the most important figures in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
His notable works included: Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The Ancient of Days and Jerusalem.
ECOCIDE is the mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – severe harm to nature which is widespread or long-term.
It includes ocean damage, deforestation, land and water contamination and air pollution. As citizens we can and must take responsibility for what we eat and buy, but ordinary citizens do not make high level investment and policy decisions. Ordinary citizens cannot be blamed for ecocide.
Right now, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) lists four crimes: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression. The Statute can be amended to add a fifth crime: ECOCIDE. Unlike suing and fining corporations, making ecocide a crime creates an arrestable offence. It makes those individuals who are responsible for acts or decisions that lead to severe environmental harm liable to criminal prosecution.
In this way Earth’s most precious ecosystems can be protected and allowed to recover.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Visit stopecocide.earth to find out more
Actor, writer and director Simon McBurney is one of the most innovative, mercurial and influential theatre-makers working today.
In 1983 he co-founded the company Complicité, since when all his work has been made through a deeply researched and highly collaborative process which fuses a profound belief that all aspects of the theatre should challenge the limits of theatrical form. As well as writing and creating original works, Simon has brought great plays to the stage – Beckett, Brecht, Bulgakov, Durrenmatt, Ionesco, Daniil Kharms, Arthur Miller, Bruno Schulz, Shakespeare and Ruzzante – and adapted numerous works of literature. He adapted and directed The Master and Margarita (2012) for the 2012 Avignon Festival, and Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity (2015) for the Schaubühne Theatre, Berlin. Simon’s opera work includes directing A Dog’s Heart (2010) a new opera by Sasha Raskatov from the novella by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Magic Flute (2012) and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (2017). In 2020 he directed Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with Sir Simon Rattle conducting.
Simon’s work continually returns to political, social and philosophical questions of the way we live, think and act as a society. He is unafraid of melding the most ancient of theatrical forms with the most recent aspects of modern technology. These aspects of Simon’s work are all present in the award-winning The Encounter (2015). Described as ‘one of the most fully-immersive theatre pieces ever created’ by The New York Times, the show played sold-out runs at London’s Barbican theatre in 2016 and 2017, and on Broadway.
His numerous awards include the Berlin Konrad Woolf Prize for Europe’s Outstanding Multi-Disciplinary Artists (2008) and the prestigious Yomiuri Prize in Japan (2009), which he was the first foreigner to win. He was Artiste Associé at the 2012 Avignon Festival and has honorary doctorates at several universities including Lund in Sweden, London Metropolitan University and Cambridge University.
EUROPEAN TOUR CREDITS
Additional filmed content
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.
Complicité thanks The Mirisch & Lebenheim Charitable Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation,
John Lyon’s Charity, Backstage Trust, Maria Björnson Memorial Fund and the Polish Cultural Institute, London for their generous support of this production and the surrounding education and community projects.
Complicité is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.