What we do
Fast Familiar are an interdisciplinary collaboration comprising expertise in theatre, facilitation and creative computing.
We make artworks which are participatory, playful and political. For us, art is a space to explore questions which are too complex for daily life - and a space where we can rehearse better outcomes for a world where no decision of significance is taken by an isolated individual. We’ve been exploring digital technology in live performance since before it was ‘COVID-cool’ - we’re fascinated by how digital tech can enable new forms of human connection in a rapidly changing world. In January 2021, we were praised by the Guardian for pioneering “a hybrid form that is its own thing entirely… Fast Familiar are making participatory stories that feel distinctly theatrical.”
We tend to make artworks for small audiences, where participants are invited to collaborate and find their collective way through ethical or social dilemmas. We ask our audiences to bring their intelligence and their humanity to our projects - we are aware that we ask people to take a trip out of their comfort zone with us, and we take our responsibility for caring for our audiences seriously. We think art can be experimental without being elitist. We think art probably can’t change the world but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying.
Fast Familiar’s lead artists are Dan Barnard, Rachel Briscoe and Joe McAlister. We’re not as earnest in real life as this intro has made us sound.
If you’d like to contact us, please send us an email: email@example.com
In a past life, Fast Familiar made work under the name fanSHEN - it’s used in various reviews and articles. You can see the work we made under that name, and the reason why we changed it here.
Dan Barnard studied at Cambridge University before training as a theatre director with Rufus Norris, Ian Rickson and Katie Mitchell. Dan’s artistic practice focuses on creating experiences that put audience members as decision makers at the heart of interactive performance. He splits his time between Fast Familiar and working as Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University, where he is a member of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image. His research centres on digital performance and he is a member for the Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives and the EU COST Action on Interactive Narrative Design for Complexity Interactions. He is also a co-convenor of the Theatre and Performance Research Association’s Performance and New Technologies Working Group. He is also a trained Open Space Facilitator.
Joe McAlister is a computational artist and a strong advocate for ecocentric transparency within digital art. He has sat on various panels discussing ethics and artistic practice relating to artificial intelligence, including events at IBM and the University of Nottingham. He splits his time between Fast Familiar and working as a Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also part of the Science of the Performing Arts (SPA) Lab. At Goldsmiths, he created and leads modules across the MFA, MA, BA and BSc degrees covering machine learning for creative practice, conceptual programming for artists and designers and mobile development. He is also a module author for programmes offered online by University of London Worldwide. Joe is currently studying his PhD, seeking to reveal insight into how to craft human-to-digital interactions to enable more progressive discussion.
Rachel Briscoe trained as a playwright (Royal Court and Soho theatres) and theatre director (National Theatre Directors Course). These days, she mainly works as a writer and dramaturg of non-linear or audience-centric work. Outside of her work for FF, she has recently been dramaturg on a narrative escape room about climate change for Kolibri in Budapest; a ‘digital expert’ on the EU collaboration project PlayOn! and an ‘expert mentor’ on Upstart Theatre’s International Playable Theatre Lab. Rachel also works as a consultant, helping culture and heritage organisations take a more playful approach to their engagements with audiences. As a producer, Rachel has completed the Clore Short Course for Cultural Leaders and for 5 years to 2015 worked at Ovalhouse as Director of Theatre (jobshare) where the Guardian credited her with ‘restoring order to Ovalhouse with bold, experimental programming.’ She is also a qualified Feldenkrais practitioner.
Fast Familiar have a wider group of multi-skilled creatives we collaborate with - and who we encourage you to employ, at generous rates and under favourable conditions.
These include Al Primrose, Clare Dunn, Delme Thomas, Emma Pallant, Endy Mckay, Guy J Sanders, Helen Skiera, Jamie Zubairi, Jon Foster, Kamaal Hussain, Kris De Meyer, Milo Quinton, Rachel Donovan, Shireen Mula, Sophie Galustian, Stu Barter, Yana Penrose & Zachary Hing.
Awards and critical acclaim
Fast Familiar were selected for Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology: Future Now - 100 contemporary artists of 2020.
The Justice Syndicate was longlisted for the Lumen Prize, and received multiple 4 and 5 star reviews.
In 2019, Fast Familiar were selected to be part of the EU VERTIGO STARTS project; our residency resulted in Smoking Gun, which was chosen by the Financial Times as one of their ‘Top ten dramas to enjoy at home’ during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Critic Mark Lawson (The Guardian, BBC Radio 4) reflected on Fast Familiar’s rapid and successful adaption to the conditions of 2020: “if prizes are given for lockdown drama, Fast Familiar should get a trophy for The Evidence Chamber and Smoking Gun – enjoyable but also scholarly entertainments. This is a company to watch, whether digitally or, when it again becomes possible, in person.” The Evidence Chamber, played online by participants from over 20 countries, was featured by the New York Times as “an especially successful way for theater to be enjoyed from a laptop” and shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award. Our interactive whistleblower thriller Smoking Gun was picked by the Financial Times as one of the top ten arts experiences of lockdown.
Social Sandwich was selected for the prestigious international MediaFutures programme, which supports innovative artists working with technology to critique its impact on individuals and society.
Partners and Commissioners
Fast Familiar collaborate with a wide range of partners who are interested in our methodologies and approaches.