Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

A new Complicité production directed by Simon McBurney

Based on the novel by Olga Tokarczuk

I see the Earth in eclipse. I see us moving about blindly in eternal Gloom, like May bugs trapped in a box by a cruel child. It’s easy to harm and injure us, to smash up our intricately assembled, bizarre existence… I see nothing but Catastrophes. But as the Fall is the beginning, can we possibly fall even lower?’ - Janina Duszejko, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Based on Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk’s novel of the same name, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a new work for theatre conceived and directed by Simon McBurney. Translated into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Tokarczuk’s controversial, violent, genre defying novel is part thriller, part comedy, and part blistering poetic manifesto for the rights of animals and the environment. The book caused an uproar in its native Poland upon publication.

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 share their isolated, rural home, and she believes they are acting strangely…

Collaborating on the project are a creative team of long-standing Complicité associates including set and costume designer Rae Smith, lighting designer Paule Constable, sound designer Christopher Shutt, video designer Dick Straker and dramaturgs Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Laurence Cook.

Previewing at Theatre Royal Plymouth in December 2022, the production will go on a UK and international tour, including a three-week run at London’s Barbican.

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.” - Simon McBurney

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

Ticket information to be published soon.

Complicité thanks the Mirisch & Lebenheim Charitable Foundation for their generous support of this production.

Complicité is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. The production is additionally funded by Backstage Trust and Maria Björnson Memorial Fund.


Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is published in Great Britain by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Image credits: Olga Tokarczuk © Łukasz Giza, Artwork © Stephen Gill / Night Procession 2017, Simon McBurney © Jorri Kristjansson

© Stephen Gill / Night Procession 2017
© Jorri Kristjansson

Simon McBurney and Crystal Pite

A four-year collaboration with Crystal Pite opening this May

Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) and Complicité present a major new collaboration that will see world-renowned artists Simon McBurney and Crystal Pite, work together over three years to create three new works, each developed in response to the last. Their process draws on a rich and surprising array of source materials, from the sound of ice-caps melting and tree roots growing to the clarion calls of climate change deniers. Together they will nurture a new method of exchange, embracing uncertainty and looking for sparks in the darkness.

We are living in an age of extinction: of animals, of language, of our connection with nature and of age-old ways of knowing. Can we ever hope to give a name to what we are losing? What does it mean to bear witness to a violence in which we are both perpetrators and victims?

Across continents, choreographer Crystal Pite and director Simon McBurney have exchanged ideas reflecting on their fears and cautious hopes for the age we are living in, and how artists can meaningfully create in the face of mass destruction.

“we have been trying to RE-CONNECT for so long… And have been cut off from our sense of being ‘home’ since we left the world of animals and began to make this earth in our own image…” Simon McBurney

This piece will be presented by NDT at The Hague on 6 May 2022, as part of Dreams 360 and tour in the Netherlands only.  The piece is the first of a triptych of collaborations between these artists to be presented between 2022 and 2025.

Tickets can be booked via NDT's website

Book tickets here

Photo by NDT
Photo by Tim Bell
Photo by NDT
Photo by NDT

Grief Chorus

A participatory project exploring grief through song

What could healing in collective grief musically sound like? What are the musical elements of loss and grief?

We are inviting residents of Brent to join a participatory project exploring responses to grief through song.

Grief Chorus explores the musical elements of how grief is expressed communally across different cultures, an ode to what we have missed during the pandemic, and what we are rebuilding. In the wake of the pandemic, the UK is facing an epidemic of loss and social isolation, we invite you to reassemble again to reflect on this through a series of FREE voice and singing workshops - to bring conversations about grief into a communal space.

The project, led by Theatre Director David Ashley, will take place across eight evening sessions and two weekends in June and July 2022 where participants will explore their vocal response as a group. There are no expectations, we believe that everyone can sing. 


Venue: National Youth Theatre, 443-445 Holloway Road, London N7 6LW
Project dates:
Sunday 5 June, 11am – 5pm intro workshop
Wednesday evenings from 8 June – 27 July, 6.45pm – 9pm
Saturday 30 July, 10am – 5pm
Sunday 31 July will be a full day with a sharing of the work in the evening; a celebratory evening of song and food.

If you are interested in taking part, please fill out this form to express interest.
Deadline to express interest is 10am Monday 23 May 2022.

Key to the project is the inclusion of people from all backgrounds, with the aim of creating work that is representative of all involved. If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please email or give us a call on 020 7485 7700.

“The right to sing is an absolute, regardless of how it sounds to the outside world. We sing because we must, we sing because it fills our lungs with nourishing air and let’s our hearts soar with the notes we let out. We sing because it allows us to speak of love and loss, delight and desire all encoded in lyrics that let us pretend those feelings are not quite ours. In song, we can find shortcuts to ecstasy while performing the mundane duty of a daily shower or scrubbing down the kitchen after yet another meal. Best of all, we can sing together.”
From Wintering by Katherine May

With thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund for their support 


The production is kindly supported by Community Fund
photo by Ali Wright
photo by Ali Wright

Can I Live? Screenings

Upcoming Can I Live? screenings and events 

IN PERSON Can I Live? screening at Salisbury Arts Centre
Sunday 12 June, 11.30am, screening and Q&A at Salisbury Arts Centre
Book a ticket

ONLINE Can I LIve? screening at The Cultch
10 - 15 May 22, available online on-demand at The Cultch, Vancouver
Book a ticket to watch

ONLINE Can I Live? talk at Adelaide Festival
11 March 22, 2.30am GMT Fehinti in conversation with Dwayne Coultard
Book a free ticket for the talk

ONLINE Can I Live? screening at Sydney Opera House
1 March to 30 June, online, on-demand screenings via Sydney Opera House Digital
only available to view in Australia and New Zealand
Book here

ONLINE Can I Live? screening at Civic Square
24 - 26 Feb 22 free to view with registration
IN PERSON screening and talk

Sunday 27 Feb 22
Civic Square

ONLINE Can I Live? screening at Cascade Festival of African Films
17 Feb 2022, 3am GMT - available for 24 hours
Book a free ticket to watch the film

ONLINE panel discussion at Creative Coalition Festival 2022
3 Feb 2022, 10am-11am GMT
Actor and writer, Fehinti Balogun, will be a key note speaker at the Creative Coalition Festival 2022 talking about the climate emergency, culture and his journey into the world of activism. The panel discussion will be chaired by chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota and broadcast from the Eden Project.
Register for a free ticket to the festival here

ONLINE Can I Live? screening Creative Coalition Festival 2022
3 Feb at 5pm GMT 
Register for a free ticket to the festival here

Can I Live?
Conceived, written and performed by Fehinti Balogun
Directed by Daniel Bailey
Co-directed by Simon McBurney

Why don't we talk about it? Fehinti Balogun asks this urgent question and offers an invitation in Can I Live?, a vital filmed performance about the climate catastrophe, sharing his personal journey into the biggest challenge of our times. Weaving his story with spoken word, rap, theatre and animation, Fehinti charts a course through the fundamental issues underpinning the emergency, identifying the intimate relationship between the environmental crisis and the global struggle for social justice, and sharing how, as a young Black British man, he has found his place in the climate movement. 


Photo by Donald Matheson
Photo by David Hewitt

everything that rises must dance, ResCen

An online movement archive created with ResCen 

We have collaborated with ResCen at Middlesex University to create an online archive of the movement created from our production everything that rises must dance. 

Explore the archive here

everything that rises must dance by Choreographer Sasha Milavic Davies and Composer Lucy Railton was performed in 2018 as part of London's Dance Umbrella Festival with 200 women and subsequently at the 47th Hong Kong Arts Festival with 100 women.

Women of all ages, abilities and backgrounds were invited to create a short choreography based on eight gestures they observed women around them doing. We recorded these sequences and have partnered with ResCen Research Centre at Middlesex University to build a living archive which will continue to grow with every new iteration of the project. 

‘We wanted to create a living archive of contemporary female movement and to celebrate its history and future. It’s a political gesture, an anthropological exercise and an attempt to locate the individual within the collective. When 200 women occupy a space we begin to ask – how do the gestures we make express our identity? Is movement – non-verbal communication – a hidden code to understand a culture, a society, our ancestry or our future? Quite apart from the larger political themes, the piece is a joyous communion, the creation of a new ritual.’

— Sasha Milavic Davies and Lucy Railton

'For both Complicité and ResCen, change and movement are natural and being static is unthinkable. Both organisations embody an approach that allows methods to be adopted and adapted according to the needs of each project which has made this collaboration productive and a pleasure. We hope that you enjoy the website.’ 

— Professor Christopher Bannerman, Director ResCen Research Centre



Photo by Ali Wright

The Walk with Little Amal

Complicité welcomes Little Amal at Dover

"no one would leave home 
unless home chased you to the shore" 
- Warsan Shire

Complicité welcomed Little Amal for The Walk at St Margaret's Bay in Dover, beneath the White Cliffs. Little Amal, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a nine-year old Syrian girl, is walking across Europe to shine a light on the stories of millions of young refugees. More than 15,000 migrants have made the dangerous journey crossing the English Channel, the world's biggest shipping lane, since the start of 2021.

The Walk, a collaboration between Good Chance and Handspring Puppet Company, is a festival of art following Little Amal's journey from Turket to UK. Little Amal has travelled through eight countries, and been welcomed by hundreds of cultural events in cities, towns and villages all along her route.

Amir Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director of The Walk, invited Complicité to create a welcome for Little Amal at Dover. Directed by Complicité Associate, Sasha Milavic Davies (everything that rises must dance; The Suppliant Women), performed by Toby Sedgwick (A Dog's Heart; The Noise of Time) and designed by Sarah Mercadé, with text from poet Warsan Shire. The performance of Little Amal's encounter on the beach explores how human connection transcends borders and oceans. 

Watch the film here


Learn more about what you can do to help refugees here.




Photograph - Justin Sutcliffe
Photograph - Justin Sutcliffe
Photograph - Justin Sutcliffe

The Arts Hour, BBC

Simon McBurney hosts a special edition of The Arts Hour, on the BBC World Service


In a curtain raiser to the World Service Arts Festival, Simon McBurney will be talking to filmmakers, novelists and thinkers from across the arts. They will examine our fractious relationship with the world, looking at how telling and listening to stories might help bring us closer together in lockdown and beyond, both to each other and to the Earth.

Our removal from community and from nature has been happening in the West, not just during Covid-19, but for centuries. Now is the time to reflect on those relationships and rethink the role of society and our place on the planet.

Joining Simon to discuss these issues will be: Naomi Klein, the award winning journalist and author; Colleen Echohawk, founder of the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness; Psychiatrist Dr Iain McGilchrist, who explains why he feels we’ve become more reliant on the left side of our brains and why that’s not a good thing;  writer, art historian and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim on nature vs the economy in Ghana; actor Fehinti Balogun, who talks about how theatre is the perfect place to highlight issues including climate change; and filmmaker Takumã Kuikuro who explains why, in his opinion, storytelling needs to begin and end with nature.

13 March 2021 at 8:06pm GMT

Nana Oforiatta Ayim
Naomi Klein, photo by Kourosh Keshiri
Takuma Kuikuro, photo by Elisa Mendes
Simon McBurney, photo by Ali Wright