David Bösch

David Bösch was born in 1978 in Lübbecke, North Rhine-Westphalia. From 2000 to 2004, he studied directing at the College of Music and Theatre in Zurich, where the works he directed included Frühlingserwachen (Spring Awakening) by Wedekind and Leonce und Lena – a better day (Leonce and Lena – a better day) based on the play by Georg Büchner. He was awarded the First Prize in the 2003 Körber Young Directors Studio competition for his interpretation of Jessica Goldberg’s Fluchtpunkt (Refuge) .

In 2004, he directed Port by Simon Stephens as part of the Young Directors Project at the Salzburg Festival, a coproduction with the Thalia Theater Hamburg. He went on to direct Romeo and Juliet at the Schauspielhaus Bochum, Der Drang (Urge) by Franz Xaver Kroetz at the Theater Bern, George Tabori’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle) at the Thalia in der Gaußstraße, The Dispute by Marivaux at the Schauspielhaus Zurich (Schiffbauhalle) and Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing – another coproduction between the Thalia Theater Hamburg and the Salzburg Festival –, for which he won the 2006 Young Directors Award.

Since the 2005/06 season, David Bösch has been director in residence at the Schauspiel Essen under its artistic director Anselm Weber. In 2005, he directed the opening play of Weber’s first season in Essen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, which became a big hit with the public. This has been followed by Werner Schwab’s Volksvernichtung oder Meine Leber ist sinnlos (People Annihilation or My Liver is Senseless) and Kleist’s Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (Ordeal by Fire) in 2006, Molnár’s Liliom and Büchner’s Woyzeck in 2007, and Sophocles’s Antigone in 2008.
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Portrait: David Bösch

There has obviously been a need for some one like David Bösch in the German theatre world. How else is this young director's meteoric career to be explained? Not yet 30 years old, Bösch has established a name for himself with productions that have made him both a ratings success and a favourite with audiences in Essen just as much as in Hamburg or Zurich. This is presumably because Bösch, a passionate film fan and believer in the primacy of play over abstraction, relies on effects and emotions more than just about any other director in contemporary German-language theatre - very much living up to his oft-repeated motto: "We should not leave emotionality to the cinema!" Bösch is anything but an intellectual, conceptual director burdened down by theory. His approach to plays is sensuous, playful and direct. Gifted with an enormous, often exuberant directorial imagination, he knows how to enthuse a young audience for the theatre with wit, charm and style, especially when presenting classic material, and manages to do this without scaring off the season ticket holders.

Bösch's productions have rhythm, pace, comedy, tragedy and momentum - all the things you need to tell a good story and give it an emotional charge. They draw on the multimedia resources of the contemporary world (pop music, comics, video and film), are inspired by a boisterous pleasure in performance and are always permeated by a deep affection: Bösch's tangible love for all his characters. This director devotes attention to, and makes up stories for, even the most insignificant incidental figure. In consequence, people like to call David Bösch a "philanthropist" and a "romantic". He is described as "the warm-hearted director" who "gets under his characters' skin", yet knows how to "put things in a nutshell." Even so, the juvenile light-heartedness he displays naturally does not always find undivided approval. Critics of Bösch's drama of the emotions complain that his theatre relies excessively on songs, effects, atmospheres and the aesthetic surprise of beautiful images, that it is only aiming at the heart and neglects the mind. This is theatre "for Bravo's teenage readership", the FAZ critic concluded sullenly of Bösch's A Midsummer Night's Dream in Essen, which was put on in 2005 to mark the start of Anselm Weber's time as artistic director there. Nevertheless, the (young) audience gave it a rapturous reception. It became a cult production and played to sell-out houses, as did Bösch's Woyzeck in Essen, his Clavigo in Hamburg and his Romeo and Juliet in Bochum and Zurich.

As early as 2003, when he was still studying directing at the College of Music and Theatre in Zurich, the Westphalian Bösch was being awarded prizes for young talent and received the offer to become director in residence at the Grillo-Theater in Essen, starting in the 2005/06 season. In 2004, he enjoyed great success at the Salzburg Festival Young Directors Project with Simon Stephens's social drama Port, a coproduction with the Thalia Theater Hamburg, where he has since worked regularly as a guest director. While he was at the Salzburg Festival, he also came to the attention of Matthias Hartmann, then still artistic director at Bochum. Hartmann decided to place Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet in the hands of a young director who was literally bubbling over with ideas. The production was such a hit that it was moved from the small stage at the Schauspielhaus Bochum to the large stage and subsequently taken by Hartmann to the Schauspielhaus Zurich. Bösch transformed the play into glorious, passionate emotional cinema with crazy fencing scenes and amusing sequences when the actors squirted each other with water. Just as he has often done since with other plays, he recast the story as a generational conflict: The two childish lovers ran up against the constraints of the adult world - and the dead couple were transfigured at the end as they entered their theatrical heaven.

Bösch retold Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, his debut production at the Schauspiel Essen, as an ironic nightmare in the style of a teen horror film. Freddy Krueger, Boris Karloff, Leatherface and other famous monsters from classic examples of the genre got up to their mischief in the magic forest near Athens with chainsaws, drills and cinematic images of fear. Bösch may have got increasingly tangled up in the thicket of his inventions, but the way he moved Puck to the centre of attention and invented the story of the character's family background and puberty was touchingly tender and powerful. The young actress Sarah Viktoria Frick, Bösch's Essen muse, played Puck as a chubby little thing in dungarees - part-girl, part-horror dwarf - who mingled dream and trauma grandiosely as she searched for her sexual identity, all the while pulling the strings in this wildly applauded teenage horror picture show.

David Bösch won the Young Directors Project, the Salzburg Festival's international directing competition, in 2006 with Much Ado about Nothing, his third Shakespeare in succession. Explaining its decision, the jury commented that in this piece Bösch was returning "to the roots of the comedic in popular theatre" and making "the spirit of the theatrical poet Shakespeare almost physically tangible". The staging, a wonderful, furiously paced piece of comedy performed in a circus tent, was a coproduction with the Thalia Theater Hamburg, where Bösch also retold Clavigo, Goethe's drama of artistic ambition, in 2007, filling it with contemporary vitality. In 2008, this was followed by Dirk Laucke's road drama alter ford escort dunkelblau (old ford escort dark blue) at the same theatre. Bösch took Laucke's tale of three casual workers from the East German provinces and charged it up with aggression, as well as romantic energy.

Although enthusiastically courted by major theatre houses, David Bösch has decided to keep his "home base" at the Grillo-Theater in Essen for the time being because he will get all the help he needs to develop himself further there. For this young director has no desire to get stuck in a rut and reprise the same theatrical ideas over and over again. Rather, he talks of wishing to probe even deeper into "the pain spots" of the plays he works on. He directed Schiller's Kabale und Liebe (Cabal and Love) very seriously in Zurich with a simple stage set of black curtains. His Essen version of Franz Molnár's trashy fairground tale Liliom drew out all its tragedy and touching comedy, only to dump it on a modern rubbish heap (of the emotions). Bösch set Büchner's Woyzeck in a post-civilisational science fiction scenery of oppressive, highly emotive images, while granting even the most repulsive figure a moment of human sympathy. Bösch directed his first ancient tragedy, Sophocles's Antigone, in 2008: Not as a play of archaic force founded on a legal and moral discourse, but as a family and generational drama of the modern world, narrated in a spirit of sibling love and childish play. Sarah Victoria Frick starred as an unruly teenager on a pubescent rampage: an Antigone who tried out every available rebellious pose from pop, agitprop and politics in her revolt against Creon, at times screaming her protest as a punk song: "I'm not scared of dying!" Her two dead brothers were constantly present on the stage, narrating and commenting on the plot, and the siblings all found themselves united in the realm of the dead at the play's not-really-so-unhappy end.

Despite all the directorial courage he displays, David Bösch is a fundamentally old-fashioned director who has returned to the art of storytelling, in doing which he has been afraid of neither pathos nor empathy. In fact, when talking about his models, he mentions old masters such as Luc Bondy and George Tabori because he prizes the "Jewishness" of their work, their humour and their humanity. Certainly, he wants to learn from older directors rather than usurp them. Bösch is not a theatrical rebel, nor is he someone with a tendency to go berserk. He will navigate his own way through the theatrical landscape, and we can be quite sure the paths he takes will not always be the safe ones.
Christine Dössel

Productions - A selection

  • Heinrich von Kleist "The Maiden of Heilbronn"
    2015, Vienna Burgtheater
  • Henrik Ibsen "Peer Gynt"
    2014, Residenztheater, Munich
  • William Shakespeare "Othello"
    2014, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Bertolt Brecht "Mother Courage and Her Children"
    2013, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Johann Nepomuk Nestroy "The Talisman"
    2013, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
  • Henrik Ibsen "Ghosts"
    2012, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
  • After Hans Fallada "Little Man, What Now ?"
    2012, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • William Shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet"
    2011, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Urfaust"
    2011, Myeongdong Theater, Seoul
  • Nis-Momme Stockmann "Die Ängstlichen und die Brutalen" (i.e. "The Fearful and the Violent")
    2011, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz "Stallerhof"
    2010, Burgtheater (Kasino), Vienna
  • William Shakespeare "The Tempest"
    2010, Schauspielhaus, Bochum
  • After Jakob Hein "Liebe ist ein hormonell bedingter Zustand" (i.e."Love is a Hormonally Induced Condition")
    2010, Schauspiel Essen
  • Franz Grillparzer "The Golden Fleece"
    2009, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Gerhart Hauptmann "Before Sunrise"
    2009, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Anthony Burgess "A Clockwork Orange"
    2008, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Sophocles, "Antigone"
    2008, Schauspiel Essen
  • Dirk Laucke, "alter ford escort dunkelblau" (old ford escort dark blue)
    2008, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Georg Büchner, "Woyzeck"
    2007, Schauspiel Essen
  • Friedrich Schiller, "Kabale und Liebe" (Cabal and Love)
    2007, Schauspielhaus Zurich
  • Franz Molnár, "Liliom"
    2007, Schauspiel Essen
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Clavigo"
    2007, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Heinrich von Kleist, "Das Käthchen von Heilbronn" (Ordeal by Fire)
    2006, Schauspiel Essen
  • William Shakespeare, "Much Ado about Nothing"
    2006, Thalia Theater Hamburg/Salzburg Festival as part of the Young Directors Project, awarded the 2006 Young Directors Award
  • Werner Schwab, "Volksvernichtung oder Meine Leber ist sinnlos" (People Annihilation or My Liver is Senseless)
    2006, Schauspiel Essen
  • Marivaux, "The Dispute"
    2006, Schauspielhaus Zurich
  • William Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
    2005, Schauspiel Essen
  • George Tabori, "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle)
    2005, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz, "Der Drang" (Urge)
    2005, Stadttheater Bern
  • William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
    2004, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Simon Stephens, "Port"
    2004, Thalia Theater, Hamburg/Salzburg Festival as part of the Young Directors Project
  • Frank Wedekind, "Frühlings Erwachen" (Spring Awakening)
    2004, Theater an der Sihl, graduation production for the directing course at the College of Music and Theatre, Zurich
  • Andri Beyeler, "Kick and Rush"
    2003, Theater an der Sihl, Zurich
  • Andri Beyeler, "Je ne m'en souviens plus" (mais ce n'est pas vrai)
    2003, Fabriktheater, Zurich
  • Jessica Goldberg, "Fluchtpunkt" (Refuge)
    2003, Theater an der Sihl, Zurich, First Prize in the Körber Young Directors Studio competition
  • Georg Büchner, "Leonce und Lena - a better day" (Leonce and Lena - a better day)
    2003, Theater an der Sihl, Zurich, awarded the Cast Award and the Audience Award at the Meeting of German-Language Drama Colleges in Graz