Diana Vickers puts music on the back burners to pursue her acting dream
Ahead of her new show, Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, the former X Factor star tells Alex Bellotti why she could only ever be a performer.
As The X Factor returns for another series, it naturally brings up memories of past successes, and the story of Diana Vickers is up there with the best. As a starry-eyed, bare-footed 16-year-old, she charmed the panel of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in her first audition, before going on to reaching the semi-finals of the contest back in 2009.
The bookies’ favourite throughout much of the run, her popularity continued to soar after leaving the show, with her debut single, Once, and album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree, both soaring to number one in the UK music charts. Having dreamed of being an actress since her earliest years, however, she’s now stepping back from her singing career to pursue her love of the theatre, and is soon to appear in the Park Theatre’ latest show, Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched.
“I’m a performer; I’ve had it in my blood since I was young,” says Vickers. “I went on The X Factor, but I always said, ‘I’ll do music when I’m younger but eventually I want to knuckle down and be an actress. It is scary, but there’s never really been another option for me.”
Also starring Wendi Peters and Vicki Binns, Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched charts the fortunes of the Needham family, who have buried their uncle Arthur and christened their new baby in a double booking at the local church. As Dorothy-Mavis, the overbearing “queen bee” of the family, takes charge of preparations for the after party, the scene slowly snowballs in tension as the dark secrets and mysteries of the family begin to unravel, with Vickers’ young, rebellious character, Susan, proving particularly provocative.
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“It’s very funny and heart-warming, but it’s also very heart-wrenching and there’s some really upsetting scenes, so it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster watching it,” explains the 24-year-old. “All [Susan] is bothered about is fellas and sex and having a good time; it’s the 1950s and she’s pregnant so it’s a bit scandalous. She represents youth and she’s quite a modern woman, except she doesn’t really know what she wants to do.”
Vickers made her professional acting debut in 2009 when she appeared in a West End revival of Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Having picked up plaudits for her versatile musical performance in the lead role, she went on to appear in Sky’s six-part comedy series Give Out Girls in 2013, before returning to the West End alongside Ben Miller in The Duck House, a political satire about the 2009 expenses scandal.
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With her acting career clearly beginning to blossom, she admits it’s left her music on the back burner. “I’ve not really thought about my music for a while, when I go in the studio I’ll write, but I haven’t got any plans. I just want to concentrate on my acting, it’s really hard, it’s really tiring, it’s really emotionally draining, so it needs a lot of attention.”
Furthermore, the performer reveals that while she tries to catch The X Factor from time to time, she certainly hasn’t got the “X Factor Fever”.
Increasingly, she feels distanced from the shy youngster she was first announced to the world as, and says that in her acting career particularly, the status the talent show gave her can only take her so far.
“It did me well that show and it was a great platform, but it was so long ago now. I did it when I was so young – I was only 16 – so I don’t feel very connected in terms of when I see it, it brings back all these emotions.
“It’s difficult because I’ve been in countless meetings and it doesn’t really help you that you have a name or come from that kind of show. Sometimes it might, but in acting, if you’re not funny, you’re not funny and you’re not going to get the job. I don’t think anyone’s doing me any favours just because I was on that show and I’m getting the roles because I’m working hard for them – it’s actually a really good feeling.”
Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched runs until September 26 at the Park Theatre. Visit parktheatre.co.uk