Darkly comic play exploring humankind’s interaction with nature

The world premiere of Complicité’s Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead tours to the Oxford Playhouse from Wednesday, March 1, to Saturday, March 4.

Brought by international touring company Complicité, this new work for the theatre is based on the darkly comic, anarchic noir novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk.

Tokarczuk’s novel caused a huge reaction in her native Poland due to its defiant attack on authoritarian structures; with right-wing press branding the writer an ‘eco-terrorist’ and national traitor.

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…

This murder mystery is a love letter to the natural world – 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.

Following its run at the 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 Over the Bones of the Dead is the latest in a series of Complicité projects that address the destruction of the planet. Complicité Artistic Director 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. 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.”

On the production, the author Olga Tokarczuk said: “I am truly delighted and honoured that Complicité has been inspired by my book. The book was born out of anger and powerlessness and in the absolute conviction that we must find new languages in order to be able to speak about deadly serious things…

“Theatre is a powerful and influential art; it is one of the most complex and refined forms of communication. It imprints on viewers deep sensations and gives them a meaningful intellectual insight. I share with Complicité a similar sensitivity and an outlook on the world. I believe that the show will enhance my text with dimensions which can come into existence only in direct contact with an audience.”

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was shortlisted for the 2019 and 2022 Man Booker International Award, and longlisted for the National Book Awards in Translated Literature, the Dublin Literary Award and the Warwick Prize.

Tickets for Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead at Oxford Playhouse are priced from £10 and are available from the Box Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com.