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Under the Bed comes to ARC on Thursday 29 September, and is presented by 154 Collective.

154 Collective is an international multi art form group with collaboration at its heart. They seek to tell stories from new and unusual perspectives whilst using an array of art forms and approaches to achieve this, and Under the Bed, a compelling new play about childhood trauma and what happens when nightmares are indistinguishable from reality, features performance, live music, animation and film. Expect stunning visuals and powerful storytelling set to an enchanting live music score.

We asked musician and composer Nick Lewis what it was like to make a show involving seven artists who weren’t all in the same room.

Remote Collaboration

Before working with the 154 Collective on the show Under the Bed, I had always approached composition as a private undertaking that was either improvisatory or thoroughly considered, and not much in between. This meant that my collaborations with others only happened after I had a finished idea that I could present, or passed in an instant of improvisation. On Under the Bed though, I worked with fellow musicians James Dey and Hayley Youell, along with actors, visual artists, and writers among others. Because this was a much bigger collaboration than I had ever been involved with before, and because we were all based in such varied places (Yorkshire, London, Germany, Italy, U.S.A), working remotely was the obvious way forward. This meant that for this project, instead of physically meeting up to share and work on the show, we would share a Dropbox folder with all of the shows works-in-progress in it, and use other apps such as Screenhero to work on anything that needed it in real time. Our plan as musicians was to record raw musical inspiration whenever it struck, and send those unadulterated ideas to each other. We would then let others develop that idea and send it back. We would continue this back and forth until pieces of music grew from the process. This was a big ask for a group of perfectionists who had just met each other!

The act of sharing any idea I have in a folder with a whole group, regardless of my own thoughts on it or its ‘readiness’ is something that I have found incredibly freeing. To me it’s like putting work on a notice board and just leaving it hanging there to influence a room full of people. The other side of this sharing is that there is an almost constant input from other collaborators along the way and all of their ideas or works are sitting there in the folder, free for me to look at. This has had a huge impact on the work I have done in this way. The strength of influence of the other artists of different kinds on my work is something that has surprised me too. Although I have worked with artists other than musicians before, it again feels different and perhaps more pronounced when collaborating remotely. By having everyone’s ideas and thoughts for the whole show on my phone and computer, I am able to live in that world day to day, and am never cut off from it. This means that the connection between the different parts of a show and the resulting work as a whole is much deeper and cohesive.

When collaborating with people in real time, I often feel like it’s built on a frenzied rush of ideas and thoughts. This is something I really enjoy and I think the energy that comes from it can be very exciting, though some ideas might struggle to get heard or lost in the process. Working with others remotely though, has more of a restrained, thoughtful feel to it. Like I said before, you get to live with the ideas for longer. This shapes the work differently and gives it a different energy, which I find is something that’s really fun to play around with.

Since developing Under the Bed I found it works so well for me that I have collaborated remotely on many (if not a majority) of my projects. Remote collaboration has also changed the way I approach solo compositions. I am now more likely to leave an idea to breathe for a length of time and only come back to it when I feel I’ve got an almost outsiders perspective on it. I don’t always work like this, but if I ever reach an impasse or just am in the mood to, it’s something available to me now. This method of approaching solo compositions in a mind-set brought about from remote collaboration has been hugely beneficial to me when creating music.