Podiums, potential dramas and catchphrases - behind the scenes at the ITV Leaders' Debate

Julie Etchingham is hosting the ITV leaders' debate Credit: ITV News

What's got fourteen legs, comes out at night and can talk for two hours?

Preparing for the ITV Leaders' Debate has been an experience like no other.

In the space of weeks it's blown hot - cold, morphed from four players to seven - then possibly six - and thankfully now back to seven again.

The rehearsals

Our rehearsals have taken us to the outer reaches of smaller party policy areas in which we otherwise might never have roamed.

To the inner detail of what the bigger parties are actually promising - and what they're failing to admit to.

To designing a TV set not just with a bigger number of podiums than ever before for a UK election - but with colours which don't scream 'Labour', 'SNP' or 'Green' or any of the seven hues of the political spectrum taking part.

It could get messy and it could get ragged. But in the end isn't that precisely a snapshot of the state of our politics?

The line-up for the seven party leaders in Thursday's debate Credit: ITV News

Potential dramas

As well as the potential head-to-head moments between Cameron and Miliband - there are plenty of other mini-dramas waiting to unfold:

  • With UKIP biting on the Conservative and the Labour vote: watch out for Farage v Miliband v Cameron

  • With the Greens nibbling on the Labour and Lib Dem vote - watch for Natalie Bennett on manoeuvres

  • With the SNP giving Labour the vapours north of the border - watch Miliband v Sturgeon

The 2015 Leaders' Debate catchphrase?

Forget the catchphrase 'I agree with Nick' from 2010 - in 2015 will it be 'I agree with Nicola' ?

The self-professed anti-austerity alliance of Wood, Sturgeon and Bennett have already said they want to give Westminster the fright of its life.

Will 'I agree with Nicola' be the catchphrase of the 2015 leaders' debate? Credit: PA

Meanwhile Nick Clegg could be getting ready to wash the dirty laundry of the Coalition in public.

The little things to watch out for

Yes, Farage is a few paces away from Cameron - and Miliband is too - but close up cameras will catch every twitch.

Aficionados of election debates know gesture and inflection count.

And how will the men react to the women leaders? None surely would dare a patronising tone or a roll of the eyes.

So this is the leaders' debate 2015 - the personalities of the new political landscape up close and personal - and pitching against each other.

It could be quite a night.

More: David Cameron to get final word in ITV Leaders' debate