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David Hunter and Caroline Kay release new online musical created and recorded during lockdown

David Hunter. Photo credit: Mark Willshire.

WEST End star David Hunter (Waitress, Kinky Boots, Once) and actor/singer-songwriter, Caroline Kay (The Clockmaker’s Daughter), have come together virtually – having never before met in person – to write, perform, and record a new Musical Short, The Space Between.

Made using screen-recordings of live video calls over Zoom, FaceTime, and Whatsapp, The Space Between is a 13-minute musical story offering a glimpse into a couple’s difficult relationship through Lockdown.

Hunter said: “I’ve always wanted to write a musical, and I reached out to Caroline with the beginnings of an idea for a Lockdown creation.”

The two then agreed to collaborate and composed the piece by communicating solely via Whatsapp.

Kay said: “Lockdown has affected all relationships in different ways and we wanted to explore what these effects might look like for one fictional couple.”

Hunter and Kay teamed up with composer and musical director, Nick Barstow (another creative whom neither have met in person!), as arranger and musical supervisor, Imogen Halsey (on cello) and connected with Joe Davison of Auburn Jam Music LTD who mixed and mastered.

The Space Between, written and performed entirely in isolation by David Hunter and Caroline Kay, will be released today (Wednesday July 15, 2020) to raise funds for the Theatre Artists Fund, the emergency fund for theatre workers in need of urgent support due to the coronavirus pandemic set up last month by theatre and film director Sam Mendes.

The Space Between is free to view on YouTube. Audience members who can afford to make a donation to the Theatre Artists Fund are encouraged to do so.

NB: The Space Between contains 3/4 uses of the F word.

David Hunter and Caroline Kay talk about writing The Space Between in Lockdown… without actually meeting!

Were you aware of each other’s work before this project?

David: People have been telling me to work with Caroline for years! As actors and singer/songwriters, we have always moved in similar circles but somehow completely avoided each other! Bizarrely it took Lockdown to finally bring us together!

Caroline: Yes. As David is a leading man in the West End, I’ve been aware of, and admired, his immense talent for years – I saw him in Waitress earlier this year – and because I’ve followed him on social media, I had also listened to his original music. We both did solo gigs in January with Lambert Jackson Productions, and a charity event online during Lockdown, and I think the promo for these gigs may have put us slightly more on each other’s radar.

Whose idea was it?

David: I came up with the beginnings of an idea about a couple separated by Lockdown, with all the drama played out through video calls – Zoom, FaceTime etc. But we developed the story together as we wrote the songs and explored these characters.

Caroline: David got in touch with me with the idea of a new short musical about a couple kept apart by Lockdown and asked what I thought about it and if I wanted to write it with him. We chatted about the concept and story, and then began the writing process.

When did you start writing?

David: We started on the 14th of May and basically had everything written in three weeks. Then began the planning, filming, mixing and editing – which took much longer than the writing. It’s incredible how much planning had to go into the recording. Everything you see in the video happened live, in one take and took some serious planning!

Caroline: The whole project has been put together in under two months, and though it’s just only 13 minutes of content, I think that’s a real feat for new writing, particularly given the fact that it all happened in isolation without so much as a Zoom call or Facetime! David has two kids and various gigs, and I was lucky to still be working my part-time office job from home, along with writing my own musical, so I think we worked pretty efficiently!

Caroline Kay. Photo credit:  MUG Photography.

What was the process of collaboration?

David: We kept in touch purely by WhatsApp. It wasn’t intentional at first, it’s just how we started batting idea back and forth. Caroline would play around with a chord structure or a musical idea for a song and send something over and then we started firing lyrics and melody ideas at one another. I can honestly say every moment of the musical has been discussed and agreed upon by both of us. If one of us wasn’t completely happy, we’d hash it out and find the best solution. We’re both very open and accepting of other ideas, whilst being ready to passionately stand up for ones we truly believe in! It’s been a really easy and enjoyable collaboration.

Caroline: It was a really balanced collaboration in which we both continually progressed the piece together. After lots of chatting about story and character, I’d start by playing around at the piano with some chord structures and melody ideas which I’d send to David for thoughts. The music and melodies would develop from there, and then we’d delve into the lyrics. Sometimes David would suggest whole verses of lyrics that we’d then work on, and other times we’d each contribute alternate lines naturally as we went. When we had the bones of a song created, we’d both go through it with a fine-tooth comb, questioning certain lines and lyrics and making changes.

How did you communicate your ideas?

David: Purely by voicenote and text – we’ve never spoken in any other way! It gave us time to listen and re-listen to ideas, reflect on them and voicenote back again. More often than not we’d be on the same page and we’d often voicenote one another at the same time to find we were passionately making an argument for the same thing!

Caroline: We communicated solely over Whatsapp and I think we did a great job of expressing our thoughts and opinions – which can be a hard thing to do in any collaboration, but particularly one so new that neither of you have even met! I’m proud of how honest we were able to be with each other; able to stick up for an idea if we felt strongly about it but equally good at listening to each other and sometimes finding compromises.

Did the Lockdown affect your work?

David: Massively. First and foremost, it encouraged us to finally work together, but it also gave us our subject matter and the tools for telling the story. It’s amazing to think I’d never heard of Zoom a few months ago and now it opens a new musical we’ve written!

Caroline: Yes, of course, but I’m not sure that it was a negative effect. Working in different countries and never having so much as a phone call or video chat about the project is definitely going to affect a collaborative writing process, but, strangely, it worked for us! Aside from Lockdown affecting how we worked; it also very evidently affected the piece itself as the story is set in lockdown too.

Did one person write the lyrics and the other the music or was it more collaborative?

David: It was extremely collaborative. Caroline would usually lead off with a musical idea and then we’d bat ideas back and forth. Sometimes one of us would write a whole verse which would stick, other times we’d discuss a single syllable for hours! We considered and scrutinised every last word and as a result we’re both utterly thrilled with the final result. It’s easily the most satisfying creative process I’ve ever been a part of.

Caroline: It was definitely collaborative on both counts, but I would say that I led with the music side of things to get us started with each song, and David often led with lyric ideas. We each had equal say and opinion on both aspects though, and once we had put together a rough song structure, we would both work on melodies and lyrics alike.

Did either of you write individual songs?

David: It was much more collaborative than that, but certainly we agreed that we would each take the lead on our own solo songs. Vocally it had to sit well in our voices, but also the tone of the language used had to feel real and authentic to us. Both solo songs still feature huge input from both of us, but we were sensitive to the fact that it had to feel satisfying for the actor performing it. I’m forever looking for songs that speak to me and feel authentic for auditions and such, so it’s been nice to be in total control of that aspect. We could shape the songs to go exactly where we wanted to go as actors.

Caroline: We both wrote the whole show together, but it’s fair to say that David led with the male solo, and I with the female, which I think was natural as we knew we’d each be singing the songs respectively, and knowing our own voices meant being able to decide keys and certain melody choices which would work best.

Could the show be written longer or is this it?

David: This is it. The musical was always designed to act as a fleeting glimpse into this couple’s lives during Lockdown. As a project though, I hoped it would begin a journey in musical theatre writing, so I expect this is the start of much more work. Maybe another Short, maybe a full length masterpiece!

Caroline: I think for this specific story and format, this is it. It was born out of our current situation as creatives in Lockdown and is about a pivotal moment in the lives of this couple as they’re stuck in Lockdown too. That’s not to say we can’t work on similar ideas, or different projects entirely together, but I think this show, this short glimpse into a relationship, is complete as it is.

Image: Top – David Hunter. Photo credit: Mark Willshire. Bottom – Caroline Kay. Photo credit: MUG Photography.