Sebastian Nübling


© Sebastian Hoppe
Born in Lörrach on 19 July 1960. Studied cultural sciences and aesthetic practice at Hildesheim University. Graduated in 1985. Co-founder of the independent group “Theater Mahogoni” in Hildesheim. From 1997 he produced at Basel’s Junges Theater and was invited to various German towns with Enda Walsh’s “Disco Pigs”.

Since 1999 he has worked at Basel Theatre, Staatstheater Stuttgart and Staatsschauspiel Hanover. He became nationally known in 2001 with the Stuttgart production of “I Furiosi” after the novel of the same name by the Italian writer Nanni Belestrini and in 2002 he was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen with his Basel production of Henrik Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkmann”. In the same year he was voted young director of the year.

His premiere of Klaus Händl’s “wilde - the man with the sad eyes”, a co-production between Staatschauspiel Hanover and steirischer herbst Graz, was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen and the Mülheimer Theatertage in 2004. In the same year he debuted at the Munich Kammerspiele with Friedrich Schiller's “Don Carlos” and at the Salzburg Festival with Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II”.

In 2006, he staged the world premiere of Händl Klaus's “Dark Inviting World” at the Munich Kammerspiele, a production that was eventually invited to Berlin and Mülheim. Since the change of artistic management at Basel Theatre, he has been working for the Munich Kammerspiele, the Schauspiel Hanover and the Hamburg Schauspielhaus. At the beginning of the 2006/2007 season, he presented Bizet’s “Carmen” at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, his first major opera production.

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Portrait: Sebastian Nübling

Sebastian Nübling lets the actor’s body speak. Although he completed a course of study and was then a lecturer on the Hildesheim course “Cultural Sciences and Aesthetic Practice”, in the Basel independent scene he very quickly developed a form of physical theatre that is equally distant from deconstructive textual analysis and absolute faithfulness to the text.

Nübling does not follow any trends. His strength lies in putting emotions into motion. What this actually means was seen mainly in the Stuttgart production of “I Furiosi” after Nanni Balestrini’s hooligan novel of the same name. In the stage adaptation, Nübling set the rituals of violence in the hooligan scene in a single space stage. The result was a body-language tableau with eight actors who have the effect of anti-personnel mines. At the same time, however, the fascination exerted by groups of men prepared to perpetrate violence was also tangible.

Sebastian Nübling became nationally known with “I Furiosi”. One year later, his “Romeo and Juliet” bore witness to the convincing results he could achieve with classical material. Although Nübling followed Shakespeare’s text, he always had all of the actors gathered on the stage. Whereas great feelings were discussed in Shakespeare’s dialogues, the actors’ body was used to display emotional states. Hardly a sentence was spoken without us seeing the body’s independent life during speech. And hardly any sentence better characterises what Nübling is concerned with than one that he once uttered himself: Too often, he reads plays with too much text. The reason for this is that writers don’t even begin to imagine what the actor’s body is capable of expressing.

Nübling is also a family person in the theatre and for many years has worked with the set designer Muriel Gerster and the musician Lars Wittershagen. Their goal is theatre that becomes a global work of art, comprising language, movement, space and sound. The most recent example of this is Sebastian Nübling’s premiere of “wilde – the man with the sad eyes” by Klaus Händl in Hanover. In the play, the writer presents an elegiac, funny harmlessness, while he simultaneously builds up a sense of doom and a travelling “médecin sans frontiers” gets into the clutches of a trio of siblings. Nübling translates the rising threat into a choreography of hopelessness and produces a gentle nightmare in the maze of lockers in a provincial station.

In this case, too, Nübling shows that he is not one of those directors who tackle plays with a fixed repertoire of stylistic means. Irrespective of whether he is working with amateurs from the Basel Junges Theater in the German premiere of Simon Stephen’s “Herons” or with actors from the Hanover Staatstheater in Tom Lanoye’s “Mamma Medea” – Nübling’s productions always appear unique and as though he has specially designed a mantle for the text. He is now an in-house director at Basel Theatre and, together with Muriel Gerster and Lars Wittershagen, firmly involved in the management. But, at the same time, he also produces in Hanover, Stuttgart and at the Munich Kammerspiele.

Sebastian Nübling works on a form of theatre that works as an institution for physical rights. “I am interested in what happens to people in times of transition. What motivates them and how they explode physically and linguistically when the system in which they have functioned so far is suddenly becomes ineffective,” is how he himself summarises his work as a director.

The question is really whether Sebastian Nübling is going to take charge of a theatre himself one day. For the time being, he is living rather “more independently” again, since there has been a change of artistic management in Basel and he is no longer an assistant director there. He continues to work at the Munich Kammerspiele, where he directed the first production of Händl Klaus's “Dark Inviting World” during the 2005/2006 season, succeeding with a light, agile realisation of a play that Händl has described as a sarcastically comic dance circling round a severed toe.

2006 was Nübling’s most successful year yet: his Händl premiere got him invited once again to both the Berliner Theatertreffen and the Mülheim Theatertage and, in his last Basel production, he combined Purcell’s "Dido and Aenaes" and Christopher Marlowe’s "Dido, Queen of Carthage" to create an evening of mixed-genre performance. This was his first move into the world of opera directing. At the beginning of the 2006/2007, season Nübling then joined the ranks of those who direct both opera and theatre with his production of Bizet’s "Carmen" at the Staatsoper Stuttgart.

Jürgen Berger

Productions - A selection

  • Sibylle Berg "Es sagt mir nichts, das sogenannte Draußen" (i.e. "It Doesn't Tell Me Anything, the So Called Outside")
    2013, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Tennessee Williams "Orpheus Descending"
    2012, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Ben Jonson "Volpone"
    2012, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Sebastian Nübling and Ives Thuwis "S A N D"
    2011, Schauspielhaus, Zurich and Junges Theater, Basel
  • Simon Stephens "Three Kingdoms"
    2011, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Feridun Zaimoglu/Günter Senkel "Alpsegen"(i.e. "Blessing of the Alps")
    2011, Munich Kammerspiele
  • After Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides "Ödipus und seine Kinder" (i.e. "Oedipus and His Children")
    2011, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Alfred Jarry/Simon Stephens "Ubu"
    2010, Theater Essen, coproduction with Toneelgroep Amsterdam
  • Tennessee Williams "A Streetcar Named Desire"
    2010, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Nikolaj Gogol "The Revisor"
    , 2009, Schauspiel Zürich
  • Friedrich Hebbel/Antonio Vivaldi "Judith/Juditha triumphans"
    2009, Salzburg Festival
  • After Lars von Trier "Wendy"
    2009, Theater Basel
  • Oliver Bukowski "Kritische Masse" (i.e. "Critical Crowd")
    2009, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
    Invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage
  • Sebastian Nübling "Mütter.Väter.Kinder" (i.e. "Mothers. Fathers. Children")
    2008, Theater Freiburg (pvc)
  • Händl Klaus "Furcht und Zittern" (i.e. "Fear and Tremble")
    2008, Ruhrtriennale, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • William Shakespeare "Macbeth"
    2008, Schauspiel Zürich
  • After the film by Mathieu Kassovitz "Hass"
    2008, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Simon Stephens "Pornography"
    2007, coproduktion Schauspiel Hannover, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg and Festival Theaterformen
  • Henrik Ibsen "Ghosts"
    2007, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Georges Bizet "Carmen"
    2006, Staatsoper, Stuttgart
  • Henry Purcell "Dido and Aeneas"
    2006, Schauspiel Zurich
  • Händl Klaus "Dunkel lockende Welt" (i.e., "Dark Attempting World")
    2006, Kammerspiele Munich, Invitation the Berlin Theatertreffen
  • Free after Euripides ("The Menades") "Virus !" 
    2005, Basel Theatre
  • After the film by Lukas Moodysson "Fucking Åmål"
    2005, Basel Theatre
  • William Shakespeare "What You Will"
    2004, Staatsschauspiel Hannover
  • Christopher Marlowe “Edward II”
    2004, Salzburg Festival/Basel Theatre
  • Friedrich Schiller “Don Carlos”
    2004, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Klaus Händl “wilde – the man with the sad eyes”
    premiere 2003, Staatsschauspiel Hanover/steirischer herbst Graz, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Simone Stephens “Herons”
    2003, Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart/Junges Theater Basel
  • Tom Lanoye “Mamma Medea”
    2003, Staatsschauspiel Hanover
  • William Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet”
    2002, Basel Theatre
  • Joanna Laurens “The Three Birds”
    2002, Staatsschauspiel Hanover
  • Henrik Ibsen “John Gabriel Borkmann”
    2001, Basel Theatre, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Sebastian Nübling after Nanni Balestrini “I Furiosi”
    premiere 2001, Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart/Theaterhaus Stuttgart
  • Edna Mazya “Games in the Backyard”
    2000, Junges Theater Basel
  • Sarah Kane “Crave”
    2000, Basel Theatre
  • Enda Walsh “Disco Pigs”
    1998, Junges Theater Basel