A quick text message and two hours later I am sat in one of Manchester's most energetic restaurants - San Carlo on King Street facing one of my life's mentors. I first met Nigel Machin back in 2001 when I took to the stage in his version of Sondheim's Assassins. 38 productions later and I've still not had as many costume changes or been so nervous as that show!
Today I sit opposite Nigel sipping a fine bottle of Peroni whilst he starts sketching ideas for the Once Bitten set.
Nigel is one of the partners in the AEW Architects firm and has directed me in countless shows. He is well known in the Manchester circuit for producing ambitious and eye dropping sets. For my first project "The Sorcereror" with Manchesters' Gilbert & Sullivan society Nigel kindly took my set ideas and with a couple of minor adjustments then built me a 3D model. This time I tell Nigel the gist of the story and my ideas and within five minutes with the excitement of a young child Nigel has sketched out a vision building on my initial concepts.
Suddenly my initial ideas have more colour in my minds eye and there is a growing excitment behind the evolving technical challenges. I specified one projector screen. Why have one when you can have three? I nod at Nigel and we start to explore the advantages of three screens. We can transport the audience into a starry night deep in a Translyvannian forest and later use it to frame the skylights in a modern apartment. Then we have a fitted kitchen, a lift, a garden!
The biggest thing that Nigel has done to the set for Once Bitten is push the boundaries of what I believed was possible. His vision, sense of adventure and experience has led to a design that I know will wow the audience. The beauty of a great set is similar to great costuming and physical casting. When used intelligently it can help tell the story by saving time explaining things with unrealistic dialogue and song.
After a delightfully light and tasty seafood linguine I polish off a chocolate desert with an espresso that reminds me of my trip to romantic Venice months before. I return to work after the most productive and satisfying 90 minutes for sometime. To summarise, I know that great food, friends and an enthuasiastic discussion in a relaxed environment leads to quick imaginative decisions. Thanks to my Nigel for setting the scene.