fanSHEN make unforgettable creative interventions which are participatory, playful and political. We’re a recovering theatre company, who now design and create audience-centric experiences which involve elements of performance, game and installation. We are based in Newcastle and work all over the UK. Founded in 2007 by Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe, fanSHEN collaborate with a brilliant group of creative people.
You can read about how we work here, and see some stuff we've written/ people have written about us here.
We take big, complex subjects and synthesise them into embodied experiences. We’re interested in art as a liminal space within which risks can be taken, in polyphonic experiences, and in bringing groups together in ways that challenge the idea that life and other people are frightening. We want generosity, intellectual rigour and radical alternatives.
We want to explore the different ways we can co-create with the people who experience our work - whether that’s about them playing within a structure we make, creating content, or committing radical acts of imagination.
We're driven by our vision; here it is below...
fanSHEN is a Mandarin word which translates roughly as ‘to turn the body’ or ‘to turn over.’ The word was used by the Chinese Communist Party to describe their radical, ambitious and ultimately highly destructive land reforms in the 1940s. It therefore evokes ideas of radical change and how terrifying radical change can be – themes which recur in fanSHEN’s work.
Our 2015 programme included Invisible Treasure, a sell-out run of a piece of actor-less, digitally-augmented indoor theatre; a six-month participatory arts project called Tooting Field Days which included games, craft and walking green routes in South London; and bringing our Ministry of Remoldability to locations as diverse as the British Museum and Deptford library to facilitate thought and action on how we can imagine a different, more just future.
In 2016 we collaborated with the Natural History Museum to create Questival, a new family festival of curiosity; made LLAMA OUTBREAK!, a pervasive game for a music festival which involved festival goers ‘infecting’ each other with llama-itus, a mysterious disease that turns you into a llama; and Lists for the end of the world, a studio theatre show made up entirely of lists.
In 2017, we finished making Lists for the end of the world, and went on a mini-tour with it before heading to Summerhall for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We also made and toured audio-fancy-dress game Disaster Party as part of our Associateship at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln; and created the first iterations of Out of Sight and The Justice Syndicate.
You can see our current projects here.