Jan Bosse

© Arno Declair
Born in Stuttgart in 1969. 1990-1993 studied Theatre Sciences, German and History of Art at the University of Erlangen/Nuremberg. 1993-1997 studied Direction at the Ernst Busch University for Dramatic Arts in Berlin.

This was followed by positions as assistant director under Manfred Karge and Robert Wilson, among others. From 1998 director at the Münchner Kammerspiele under the management of Dieter Dorn. Since 2000 in-house director at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg (manager: Tom Stromberg). Since then freelance director at the Schauspielhaus Zürich, the Deutsches Theater Berlin and the Maxim Gorki Theater.

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Portrait: Jan Bosse

Together with Sebastian Hartmann, Jan Bosse is the key director figure of Tom Stromberg’s management at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. What characterises him is the courage to tackle major contents, which is not a matter of course to this extent among young directors. In the just under four years that he has now been working as in-house director in Hamburg, Bosse has already produced Sophocles, Goethe, Molière, Chekhov and Beckett.

Yet Bosse’s start in Hamburg was anything but happy. Following his studies at the famous Ernst Busch School in Berlin he initially caused a stir with some premiere productions under Dieter Dorn at the Münchner Kammerspiele; Stromberg immediately entrusted him with the opening production of his reign with a specially commissioned work. Three years after his graduation production this seemed to be one burden too many for Bosse. In any case, his production of Helmut Krausser’s “Bus Stop. Ghosts” in the year 2000 flopped. The subsequent crisis at the Hamburger Schauspielhaus, the biggest German theatre for the spoken word, was thus associated with his name – which is why it was only fair that he has been able to rehabilitate himself as the protagonist of the ensuing turnaround.

Because after the chaotic start with many failed experiments, Stromberg saved the situation with conventional municipal theatre schedules, where the classics dominated once again – but interpreted by young directors. And with Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” at the end of the first season, Bosse provided the conciliatory proof that theatre strong in images and narrative can also be modern. He vividly turned the tragedy of god-given fate into the desperation of an individualised society.

Bosse’s updates of classics always appear youthful, but remain true to the text. He gives Goethe’s odyssey of marriage promises, “Clavigo”, the dynamics of a video clip. He sets Molière’s “Misanthrope” in the atmosphere of a high-class brothel with flowery walls. And he turns the salon of the “Three Sisters” into warehouse landscape of “in” parties. But in all of the productions Bosse’s attention is on the fatal superficiality of a society dedicated to pleasure, and this is the perspective from which he views the classics. His characters are always shrill rather than melancholic, loud rather than clever, which is why they are often described as the critical reconstruction of television actors.

This became especially clear in his most recent production, Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”. Here, Vladimir and Estragon are two joking comedy caricatures in front of a glittering show curtain who keep covering up their inner emptiness with weak jokes. However, in this production in particular it also becomes clear how narrow the gap is between criticism and affirmation because it would have been very easy to believe one was being present at a slapstick version of the play.

Bosse’s talent for comedy, which has often given the impression that he is not taking the material seriously enough, actually disguises a rather pessimistic view of the world. “Our images of ourselves and of the world have been shaken”, Bosse once said of his view of the world on the occasion of a “Roberto-Zucco" production. “Humour then lies over the latent violence like a varnish that is flaking below the surface of society and can crack at any time”. Bosse tries to make this latency tangible with his updates of classics. And to do this he follows the prescription of intensifying surface irritations - “because people in abundance need an overdose to fill and feel their lives”.

Bosse still has time to find reflective and meaningful alternatives to these figures of the present who cover up their emptiness with exaggeration. After all, in spite of the honour of being in-house director at the Hamburger Schauspielhaus he is still in the early days of his development. And currently his strength is in the prickliness of youth and not in the laissez-faire of experience. There’s already enough of that.

Till Briegleb

Productions - A selection

  • Henrik Ibsen "Hedda Gabler"
    2013, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • After Ingmar Bergman "Scenes from a Marriage"
    2013, Schauspiel Stuttgart
  • Armin Petras "Gladow-Bande" (i.e. "Gladow-Gang")
    2013, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Thomas Bernhard "The Ignorant and the Mad One"
    2013, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Anton Chekov "Platonov"
    2012, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • After Daniel Defoe "Robinson Crusoe. Projekt einer Insel" (i.e. "Robinson Crusoe. Project of an Island")
    2012, Burgtheater, Wien
  • Heinrich von Kleist "Kate of Heilbronn or The Ordeal by Fire"
    2011, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • William Shakespeare "What You Will"
    2010, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Armin Petras after Günter Grass "The Tin Drum"
    2010, Ruhrtriennale, coproduktion with Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Francesco Cavalli "La Calisto"
    2010, Theater Basel
  • Heinrich von Kleist "The Broken Pitcher"
    2010, Maxim Gorki Theater, adaption of the production 2006 at the Schauspielhaus Zurich
  • After Peter Licht by Molière "The Miser"
    2010, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • William Shakespeare "Othello"
    2010, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Georg Büchner "Leonce and Lena"
    2009, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, Coproduction with Schauspiel Köln
  • Sophokles/Hölderlin (dramatization by Jan Bosse and Andrea Koschwitz) "Antigonae"
    2008, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Edward Albee "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf ?"
    2008, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Armin Petras after Leo Tolstoi "Anna Karenina"
    2008, Grubenbauwerkstatt in Marl, Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen
  • William Shakespeare "Hamlet"
    2007, Schauspielhaus Zürich (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Heinrich von Kleist "Amhitryon"
    2007, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • William Shakespeare "Much Ado About Nothing"
    2006, Vienna Burgtheater (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "The Sorrows of Young Werther"
    2006, Maxim Gorki Theatre Berlin (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Eugène Ionesco „The Bald Soprano“
    2006, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Heinrich von Kleist „The Broken Pitcher“
    2006, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Jon Fosse „Heiß“ (i.e., "Hot")
    2005, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Werner Schwab "Holy Mothers"
    2005, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Faust I"
    2004, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Thomas Bernhard „Destination“
    2004, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Samuel Beckett „Waiting for Godot“
    2004, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Faust I"
    2004, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Anton P. Chekhov “Three Sisters”
    2003, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Heinrich von Kleist “The Schroffenstein Family”
    2003, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Sophokles "Ödipus"
    2003, Residenztheater München
  • Molière “The Misanthrope"
    2002, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Clavigo”
    (2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Sophocles “Oedipus Rex”
    2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Helmut Krausser “Bus Stop. Ghosts”
    2000, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Theresia Walser “Our Forests Are no Longer That Wild”
    2000, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Torquato Tasso”
    1999, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Marguerite Duras “The Malady of Death”
    1999, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Marius von Mayenburg “Fireface”
    1998, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Marius von Mayenburg “Psychopaths”
    1998, Vienna Festival