Boris Nikitin

Boris Nikitin
Boris Nikitin
© BAK/Gneborg

Boris Nikitin

Directing realities

Swiss Theatre Award 2020

The son of Ukrainian-Slovakian-French-Jewish immigrants, Boris Nikitin was born in 1979 in Basel, where he also grew up. He is a theatre director, author, essayist and programme planner. Following various internships at the Theater Basel, he studied applied theatre at the University of Giessen from 2002 to 2008. Since 2010 he has been back living in Basel, from where he produces his theatre projects working alongside independent theatre venues such as the Kaserne Basel, HAU in Berlin, Theaterhaus Gessnerallee in Zurich and at city theatres in the German-speaking countries. In 2013 he initiated the biennial “It’s The Real Thing” documentary festival in Basel, of which he is now the artistic director. His first independent directorial project, “Woyzeck” at the University of Giessen, received the jury award of the 100 Degrees festival at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre, Berlin in 2008. In 2017 Boris Nikitin was awarded the J.M.R. Lenz Drama Prize by the city of Jena.

Boris Nikitin’s theatrical works deal with the representation and construction of identity and reality, with the real-life biographies of the performers playing a central role. “Don’t Be Yourself” (2013), a project in which one female and four male actors reveal their lives on the stage, featured in the programme of the first Swiss Theatre Encounter in 2014 in Winterthur. Because the actors are simultaneously playing themselves, the audience is forced to confront the question of credibility inherent in every reality. “Hamlet” (2016), a solo that, rather than retelling Shakespeare’s play, develops its own theatrical vision of identity, sickness and reality, has toured internationally and was also presented in French-speaking Switzerland at the Théâtre Vidy in 2017. In “Attempt on Dying” (2019) Nikitin appears on stage himself for the first time, linking the story of his father, a sufferer from motor neurone disease contemplating assisted suicide, with the story of his own coming out as a gay man 20 years ago.

“In his own directorial projects as in his curatorial work, Boris Nikitin explores documentary theatre with dogged and captivating consistency. His ability to play with authenticity and the grand illusion of theatre is without parallel. The performers’ biographies combine with theatre music and light effects to create dizzying results. His reality is engineered with such artistry that one can easily be swept along and believe everything is true. Alternatively, one can take a step back, see through the illusion and marvel at what theatre is capable of.”

Nicolette Kretz, jury member