News: Cast announced for Complicité’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Award-winning, international touring company Complicité (The Encounter, Can I Live?) has announced the full casting for the world premiere of a new work for the theatre Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, conceived and directed by their Artistic Director and Co-Founder Simon McBurney. The piece is based on Nobel Prize-Winner Olga Tokarczuk’s genre-defying novel of the same name. 

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. Casting is subject to change at some venues.

Simon McBurney:

Olga Tokarczuk’s savage, funny and madly beautiful “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” 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 to announce 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.” 

Regarded as an eccentric outsider, the story unfolds through Janina’s eyes, veering between the comedic and macabre. Her actions question the patriarchal world which surrounds her, our deeper human intentions and the value placed on the lives of animals in contrast to our own.

Tokarczuk’s novel caused a seismic 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. This playful, anarchic noir was translated into English in 2018 by Antonia Lloyd-Jones for Fitzcarraldo Editions. It is the first English language stage adaptation of the novel and the first time Tokarczuk’s work has been adapted for the UK stage.

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…

A philosophical and poetic murder mystery, 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. 

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, dramaturgs Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook and Kirsty Housley provides additional direction. Completing the creative team are design assistant William Fricker, lighting associate Lucia Sanchez and sound associate Ella Walhstrӧm

Supported by a pan-European network of co-producers, the production begins at Theatre Royal Plymouth (1-3 December 2022) followed by a 3-week run at Bristol Old Vic (19 Jan – 11 Feb), dates at Oxford Playhouse (1-4 March) ahead of a national opening – 20 March – at the Barbican, London (15 March – 1 April). The production will then tour throughout 2023 with further UK dates at Nottingham Playhouse (4-8 April), Belgrade Theatre Coventry (19-22 April) and The Lowry (25-29 April) before international dates in May and June 2023 including Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, and L’Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Paris. Tour dates in England are now on sale (

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is 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 

Artwork: Patryk Hardziej
Photo of Simon McBurney: Jorri Kristjánsson
Photo of Olga Tokarczuk: Łukasz Giza

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *