Based on the novel of the same name by Nobel Prize winning Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is an extraordinary production that explores humanity’s relationship with nature and the animal kingdom.
This eerie and dark but often comedic show, by internationally renowned theatre company Complicité, is set during a cold winter in an isolated rural town on the Czech-Polish border that is rocked by the mysterious murders of several men.
Janina Duszejko, played by Laurence Olivier Award winning actress Kathryn Hunter, is a 65-year-old local woman who spends her days trying to understand life’s events through her belief in astrology and love for poet William Blake, the work of whom she is translating into Polish.
Janina is also a passionate animal lover. She is angry at their treatment in an area where hunting by the community’s powerful male figures is the norm.
As the killings mount up, Janina pushes the belief that they have been committed by deers, foxes and beetles as revenge on humans.
We experience the story through the voice of Janina. She narrates the tale and there are flashbacks to the action. Many of the characters are only known by the nicknames she gives them such as Good News, Odd Ball and Big Foot.
Kathryn Hunter is absolutely breathtaking as the main protagonist. She is on stage for the entire duration of the production and her performance is one of the most captivating we’ve seen at Bristol Old Vic.
The rest of the cast put in super strong performances too and the set is equally brilliant. There are giant projections of lines from Blake’s poetry as well as scenes that really made us feel like we were in the mysterious and dark wintry environment. There are many incredibly tense, edge-of-your-seat-like moments, as well as some proper laugh out loud scenes too.
Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a stunning show with a powerful message about animals and the natural world. Highly recommended.
Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is at Bristol Old Vic until 11 February. For performances from 1-11 February, Janina is played by Amanda Hadingue.
Images: Camilla Adams