Nottingham Playhouse: Understanding The Scene Of The Crime: Complicite’s Drive Your Plow… Tues 4th-Sat 8th April 2023

There’s a story simple and universal: what causes cruelties, murder, death, exploitation: interestingly what’s the scene of the crime and who’s the detective? What’s our alibi?

Watching Drive Your Plow Over the Bones Of The Dead at a packed house at Nottingham Playhouse last night with my daughter who works in climate, economic and environmental change,  reminded me of DV8’s Never Again: the layers of light, sound, music, video and dance creating something beyond genre: the Complicite company gently respect the fear of the writer as something in all of us: you implicitly understand that every one of the cast believes in this moment and is powerfully weaving the safety net.

In this production Olga (nobel laureate Olga Tarkarczuk wrote the book in 2009) and her book drop onto the net and in three hours between half past seven Wednesday 4thApril 2023 I became part of a neighbourhood that rooted us in how we need the dark but it ain’t neccesarily so.

It’s Complicite’s deep and sensitive respect for the moment of creativity of Olga Tokarczuk’s creative production where I saw Janina, her main woman character, explaining how the way we’ve historically chosen to live in the world as prey and predator embellished by monumental structures of work, learning, church, state, supply and demand feels like: Janina has lived, explored, explained as a good citizen for a long time (she’s sixty five years old) and passionately loves work, (rejected) learning (rejected) and enjoys teaching, (rejected). She’s still in love with life, wants to live and express that love and joy but like Benjy in The Sound and Fury she’s harmed by this dystopian world so produces the facts of the matter of how people live obliquely: neighbours and people are not known, can’t know each other:

and yet: this is a story of all the love that there can be in one soul. (I saw this same desire yesterday on the way to the theatre walking up from the Meadows on the way to the station:

Above: Love (meaning thought, history, culture and neighbourhood) is inserted into the ecosystem as you walk up from the Meadows towards the station

Complicite show us how Janina is fragmented, overshadowed, undermined and harmed by the things she loves, lives in and for and yet she continues to love. You feel the love, the ache that we see in everyday life gently nourished here. Even though the stage stages murder, mayhem it simply the restaging of other murders, from other stages, other theatres that burden us and fix us in what Sylvia Plath might have called parenthesis. Yet we know the command structures of our position on the world stage are transforming, we’re moving on from the way we reconstructed neighbourhoods, work, health, education, relationships across the planet building new local layers of representation and connection.

There’s a different life cycle that we can engage with. Interestingly Complicite and Amanda Hardingue play the writer’s moment of creation against the characterisation of Janina so that the killing is always real but at the same moment, hypothetical, theoretical, she’s, they, we are all experimenting, interrogating that ache an ache makes the writer, you as co-creator abject, carrying that burden of illness across time, space, in and out of creativity.

Theatre can empower you to speak, to articulate, to answer back.

We’re all tunnelling under all the mythic imperialisms: state and the state of permanent war: science, learning, truth, trust, reliability, the Berlin Wall, into undescribed culture and cultures, struck dumb by centuries of shock and awe. It’s time for them to speak.