Diana Vickers on her role in The Entertainer

PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 October 2019

Diana Vickers as Jean Rice in The Entertainer (c) Helen Murray

Diana Vickers as Jean Rice in The Entertainer (c) Helen Murray

Copyright Helen Murray 2019

The former X Factor star can't wait to get back to her favourite city

I remember Diana Vickers' appearances on X Factor; with her bare feet, Boho fashion aesthetic and extraordinary voice I, along with half the nation, was completely charmed by the sweet Lancashire lass determinedly sticking to her own style. She came second, but won a career that has encompassed a number one single and number one album, theatre, television and big screen success. Now she's appearing in a new adaption of The Entertainer, John Osborne's 1957 play written at the request of Lawrence Olivier and, for its time, quite groundbreaking.

For the 2019 touring production, the play has been updated, but only as far as 1982, and the Falklands War. Shane Richie plays has-been entertainer Archie Rice, while Diana takes the role of his feisty, politically active, daughter Jean. It's a rather dark play, but Diana seems to be thriving on the challenge. We talk within minutes of her exiting the stage at a performance in Milton Keynes and she is breathless and energy-filled, tripping over her own words in her enthusiasm for her role and this play.

'I've done straight plays before, but my characters have been all quite silly and have had plenty of comic moments, whereas with this it's a straight performance and I am always quite nervous going out, because as actors we get comfort in the audience's response, their laughter, to know we're doing a good job. With this, she's a really interesting character - very confused, really passionate about her future, her political views. She wants to change her family's political views, she has hopes for the future, but also feels very lost. She's a very straight character and I don't get those moments, those laughs, the instant gratification from the audience, so in that sense it's a very different role and it's very challenging, but very refreshing - and you know you're doing a good job when you see the reaction off the rest of the company, and they give it back to you and you feel that energy.'

This is not an easy play. It is Osborne's second and his 'angry old man' follow-up to the 'angry young man' of Look Back in Anger. The new adaption, however, makes excellent use of Richie's undoubted comic skills.

'He is fantastic, he is such a wonder to be on stage with. He's been in the industry for such a long time and he's done it all and he's just still so enthusiastic and he's cheeky and he brings this great energy. He has people laughing their heads off in the audience during his stand-up.

'It is emotional and can sometimes be a difficult watch, but it's fantastic writing and we're a stellar cast and it's just a wonderful classic piece and I think that updating it was totally the right move; it's more accessible and more relatable and a bit more cheeky, and it works really well with Shane and the stand up material he has written. Just don't miss it, I would say!'

Her family and friends certainly won't be missing it. 'I love Manchester! It's one of my favourite cities; I adore it. I have so many friends there and my family is all up there and they'll all be coming to see it - my sister lives in London with me, but she'll be coming up for it too and we'll be making a night out of it! The audiences are all really fantastic in Manchester, everybody is always really up for it and you get so much back from them; it's absolutely one of my favourite places to visit on tour.'

The Entertainer is touring the UK until the end of November, and then… what next for Diana? 'I just want to do everything, really! More theatre, more telly, more feature films… I am in the studio writing at the moment, too. I just want to be creative and keep pushing forward and see what comes of it. In this industry, you never really know what's going to happen or what's around the corner and that's really scary a lot of the time - but it's also really exciting.'

28th October - 2nd November Opera House, Manchester atgtickets.com

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