Welcome to today's exclusive interview with the immensely talented Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. Victoria, a celebrated figure in the world of theatre, has dazzled audiences across the globe with her versatile performances in musicals like "In the Heights," "A Chorus Line," and "Murder Ballad." Known for her powerful voice and magnetic stage presence, Victoria has earned acclaim for her ability to bring complex characters to life. Today, we'll delve into her illustrious career, discussing her most iconic roles, her approach to character development, and her insights into the evolving landscape of musical theatre. Join us as we explore the journey of this extraordinary artist who continues to leave a significant mark on stages worldwide.

Darren: Victoria, you’ve had an extensive career on the West End, starting with Mamma Mia!, then West Side Story, In The Heights…

Victoria: Yeah, so I did ‘Mamma Mia!’ in 2002. That was my West End debut, but my Professional debut in theatre was a show called ‘Oh What A Night’. It was a tour and at Hammersmith Apollo for a little while. So that was a really good introduction to the industry. And then I carried on doing more and more shows, and here I am still to this day.

Darren: Hex. Tell us about Hex. How’d that come about?

Victoria: Hex was brilliant. I auditioned for the National for Hex, for the role of Queenie. They had an unsuccessful year of trying to put the show on and because of COVID it got cancelled. Like a lot of shows that was, you know, experiencing the same thing. Actually we were going through it with Cinderella at the time, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. So they never even got the closure or the joy from the show that they wrote, the year prior. So they put it on again. I don’t even think Hex had a press night that Covid year. So they were really missing out. So they did it the following Christmas. And then I was auditioning for it and then I managed to bag that job. And I’m really glad I did because I’m terrible at auditions. I’m shocking. It’s never a true example of what I can do. It’s not very pleasurable, to be honest. There’s not many of us that enjoy auditions, and if they do, maybe they’re lying, or a little bit sick and twisted. So yeah, but I managed to do enough of a job. Thank goodness. It was a great show, a little bit bonkers, and I just had an absolute ball.

Darren: What was the process like on Cinderella? Did you not audition for that as well?

Victoria: No, I didn’t. I was called in to do the early workshops for Andrew and Emerald Fennell and the whole creative team, about two or three years prior to it coming into the West End. So both me and Carrie Hope Fletcher, I think were the only ones that did the original workshop process. So yeah, so we were really fortunate and lucky that we got to develop our roles from the very beginning with the creative team. So, it was really exciting because we had a big sway on where the book went, where the songs went, which is, I think, any actor is gonna jump to that opportunity because that’s just a dream position to be in. I think everyone wants, basically, a part written around their abilities. And, funny things that they may say and input within like, you know, the certain dialogue and stuff like that because you do have a lot of sway in those early stages of workshops for any show that goes into the West End and Broadway. So yeah, in the end it works out I guess but it took a little while because again we kept on getting put back by Covid.

LtoR Chris Jared, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and Silas Wyatt-Barke in Bronco Billy The Musical ©The Other Richard

Darren: Yeah, I actually really enjoyed Cinderella, I love the staging. I thought the storyline, you were fantastic. You have this knack of being a wicked stepmother. I mean, that brings us into Bronco Billy, because you’re playing a wicked stepmother again. I mean, are you going to get typecast in these roles?

Victoria: I think so, actually. My husband’s a little bit worried about it. He’s like, Vix, I think we have to step away from these roles. I just have such a good time doing them, because they’re so dumb and silly, and you just get to be really naughty on stage, you know? It doesn’t take me much to be a bit naughty. I just love it because luckily both directors just trusted me to do whatever I wanted to do, so I, I never got in trouble and if I do get in trouble, it’s never really ends up being my fault.

It’s so sneaky because I do get away with murder. It’s great when you have directors that are brilliant in the sense that they allow that kind of thing happen on stage, especially in comedy. Comedy is one of these things, I was explaining this to a student the other day, you can’t plan comedy. You know, comedy has to, it’s such a surprise, it’s such a moment, something that happens in that very moment. You know, you shouldn’t have to know where it truly goes, it should have a shape, you’ve learnt the script and everything. If you don’t allow space to play, you’re never going to get the best out of comedy.

So luckily, More recently, I’ve been really fortunate with certain directors that just let me get on with it and see what happens. You’ve got a role that ends up growing and growing and just finding more goodness in the story and in the scenes of what you’re putting together, you know? It should never be stilted. It should always forever be growing, especially in comedy. So yes, as in the way of being typecast, I think I’m well and truly typecast. I don’t think there’s any escaping that now. But I’m thrilled with that. I love it, but my husband thinks I need to try something else. Something else?

Darren: Well like what? What would he rather you be doing? [laughing]

Victoria: ha! I just love comedy. I think there are these roles that are a bit, you know, these wacky women that I get to play and stuff. But, you know, I think it’s like, you are a serious actor as well, you know. You’re very serious and you should be doing this. I want you to be doing Shakespeare. And I’m like, yeah I agree. I want to be doing Shakespeare. I’ve been wanting to do Shakespeare since I left college. But, you know, people have to be the first to kind of get you in that. Once you do something, one thing, then they start bringing you in for everything. This is the same thing that happened with me with, for example, the Stepmother. Then I go and play another wacky older woman, and then I go and play another wacky older woman. All these comedy roles, you know, it’s just so, you know, one casting director needs to take that action, bring you on board, and then before you know it, you do, you get very type cast.

I remember when I did Murder Ballad, I was the Narrator, and then every audition I did after that, it was like, the narrator, the narrator, the narrator. I was like, oh, these people, gosh, it’s like, she’s got, you know, narration on her CV. She must be good at this. Bring her in for another thing, you know, blah, blah, blah. But um, yeah, I think that’s the industry, and that’s how it works. I’d love to do Shakespeare, but I guess someone’s got to let me be able to breathe in the room to allow that to happen.

Darren: Which Shakespeare would you like to do?

Victoria: Oh, I don’t really know. I’m not very fussy. I think I’d be foolish if I were fussy. I’d be great with absolutely anything. Or Chekhov, like Three Sisters. I’d just be thrilled with absolutely anything, to be honest.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in Bronco Billy The Musical ©The Other Richard

Darren: Did you train as a musical theatre performer or was it an actress and then the musicals came secondary?

Victoria: So I originally was a ballet dancer. I went to a very top ballet school called Central School of Ballet and then I ended up going to the Urdang Academy when it was a primary school, secondary school, and then a college. It’s not that now. It’s purely a college and it’s moved. It used to be a little poor school in Covent Garden, just off Shelton Street, Langley Street, on that corner there. It’s actually where the Hawksmore Steakhouse is. Near where Pineapple is. So whenever I walk down there it’s so weird because I’m like, that’s where we used to shower, that’s where we used to sleep over, we slept over in that building when I was a kid. We locked ourselves in the building, no one knew. Yeah, kids do dumb stuff like that and then they freak out because these buildings are incredibly haunted, some may think. So it was a little school in Covent Garden, now it’s a big school in Angel. And it’s like a big factory now. Where they churn out the talent, back then there was very few students, now there’s a whole load of them. Where was I going with this? I was saying something about…

Darren: Musical theatre, how you got into musical theatre, so through your dance.

Victoria: I distract myself very easily. So yeah, originally I started with dance, but then I was doing acting lessons. I always knew that that’s what I wanted to do. But because I have ADHD, I guess I had it, um, it was quite hard to just sit still. And when you’re learning and you’re enacting in an acting class, there’s more stillness. When you’re dancing in a dance class, there’s a lot of movement. So I guess that’s how I ended up pursuing that a little bit more than, say, the acting route. But I always had one-on-one acting classes and group sessions and stuff. And this is something that I absolutely, from a very young person, enjoyed way more than the dancing route. I think dancing, I just needed to get rid of a whole load of energy. So my parents just shoved me in that and they ended up doing really well in that. So everything else kind of came later and I found my voice, my singing voice, very late at the age of 14 years old and I remember the absolute moment when it happened with my singing teacher, Helen Roy and I’m thinking, you know what? I think I might be able to sing. I had no idea, and I was like, that sounded not bad. You know, and you had those little tape recorders back in the old days, and I just remember playing it over and over again. It doesn’t sound too bad. And I was 14 years old, so, yeah.

So where you can sing, dance, and act, there’s always going to be employment in a musical, and that’s what’s happened. And here I am, 23, or coming up to 25 years later, doing what I’m doing.

Darren: Do you have a favourite show that you’ve been in so far?

Victoria: I’ve been enjoying Bronco Billy. I’m absolutely adoring this show. It’s got so much heart, such a beautiful message. You know, you’ve got two worlds colliding together. It’s all about pursuing your dreams. And yes, it can be cheesy at times, but we love it for that because it’s a very fun and silly show with good slapstick comedy and it’s really having a good old giggle at itself. And I think, with what’s going on now in the world, with current affairs and everything, I think we need a silly laugh and with a good, true message at the end. And that is definitely Bronco Billy. So I’m actually going to say Bronco Billy is up there with one of them. And I loved what I had the opportunity to create in Cinderella. I really, really, really did. You know that was a great role for me and I had fun doing that. And then there was things like playing Louise, Rosalie and Gypsy. I did that at Curve. I love playing that role. Murder Ballad and definitely In the Heights, playing Daniela, that was a real dream show for me and if it was ever going to come back, I’d be begging to go back in.

Darren: Weren’t you pregnant in, In The Heights? Is that right?

Victoria: Yeah. I was, yeah. So I did it at the Southwark Playhouse first, then we got our transfer, and I was very pregnant. I finished the show at eight months.

Darren: How was that for the costume department?

Victoria: It was all stretchy materials, it was okay. So the bigger I got, the material went with me, so luckily it was actually fine. It was just a lot of dead tight dresses that you buy off ASOS basically, pretty much. I couldn’t have anything too bespoke and special because I was growing by the moment. It wasn’t a maternity dress, but it was a stretchy dress that just kind of went with me. So that was great. And I loved it. Doing that show Pregnant, I think it actually meant a lot more, that character, that role, and the stakes at the very end in her story. It was a brilliant show, that one.

Darren: Would you say motherhood has influenced your career?

Victoria: Oh, I don’t know. I was never really an ambitious person, I’ve never been really, really hungry for my career, I’ve just kind of been going along with it. Had I been a little bit more ambitious, maybe things could be a little bit more different now, in the way of my profile and what I’d be doing to this day, I don’t know, but I was never really a big dream chaser. So to speak, I would just kind of go along with it. I was a bit too casual. Much to my mum’s disapproval. She was like, you need to really tune into this. But it’s never really been in my nature to be that hungry. But then the kids came along and when I was doing Murder Ballad, I think I just turned into some Mariah Carey or Madonna like person where I almost became vicious. I was like, right, now I can do this. Because once you’ve been in labour for five days and then you have an emergency c-section, you literally think you can do anything. So anything after that just doesn’t matter. It’s just nonsense. And so, I did Murder Ballad and then that’s when I got my first Olivier nomination because I literally couldn’t give two hoots. I just went for it. Yeah, I guess it did change me. So maybe when the kids came along, because also you’ve got to put bread on the table, haven’t you? There’s got to be bacon in someone’s mouth. And I think it improved my outlook. I think in the way I’ve seen this industry, instead of like playing along with it, I’m riding it more now. Yeah. I’m definitely certainly more ambitious than I ever was before.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in Bronco Billy The Musical ©The Other Richard

Darren: Tell us about the Olivier. You’ve been nominated, you’ve won twice now.

Victoria: No, I’ve never won. I’ve been nominated, yeah, no, I haven’t won. But maybe one day, so you know, I can dream a little. I can have that little dream. I’m lucky to be nominated. One for Murder Ballad, which is what we were just talking about, and the second one was for Cinderella, for Stepmother.

Darren: Maybe you’ll win the award for the best actress in a Shakespeare play.

Victoria: Oh man, can you imagine that? I’d be like on the phone to you, I’d be like, Darren, do you remember when we had that chat? Look at me now. Look at me now, Dazzer. You know, we’ll have that chat. See, maybe it’ll be third time lucky. A Shakespeare piece. I’m gonna hold onto that dream. I’m gonna start dreaming

Darren: Definitely. Well, I’ll certainly cast you. I’ll just cast you in anything personally, but there you go. Desperately seeking Susan.

Victoria: Oh yeah…

Darren: I loved it. I mean, it’s a long time ago. It didn’t last very long. I really enjoyed it. You know what’s not to love. A character that Madonna kind of created with Blondie music.

Victoria: Yeah, do you know what? The cast loved it. We had a real good time doing it. The punters enjoyed it. They had a great time. The critics couldn’t stand it. They didn’t understand why it was a Debbie Harry and Blondie musical and not a Madonna musical. So they hated it. They absolutely hated it. We had some incredible headers on our reviews, which were all very on the nose and they didn’t have to try hard to put it that way. Desperately seeking, you know, it doesn’t set you up for a very good review. I loved it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Actually, that was good because that was I think one of the first comedy roles I really actually had the opportunity to do and that’s how I always saw myself. But I think people always saw me as the sassy, sexy, fierce one that was clicking their fingers and hitching up her skirt and doing some big, sing song number. But I always wanted to do comedy. So yeah, that was great because Desperately Seeking Susan actually I think was the first, in employment wise, was the first job I did that, that put me in the kind of funny bones area. But I’m glad you liked it. I liked it too.

Darren: It was great.

Victoria: yeah, we had previews for a whole month and then we opened with the show for a whole month. Wrapped it up in two months. It was tragic. It was devastating.

Darren: Yeah, I always remember the scene where they’re running and it’s on a treadmill.

Victoria: Whenever anyone has a memory, it’s that, it was like a travelator with a man with long grey hair running, running and singing at the same time, and it was just like, I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get, I’m gonna

Darren: get, I’m gonna get, I’m gonna get, yeah, it was that, yeah, yeah. [Laughing]

Victoria: That was it, yeah. Simon, oh my gosh. It was very, very funny and silly like that, but I had a good time. I enjoyed it. The choreography was insane. The set was insane. It was great. I had good costumes. Yeah, but anyway, it wasn’t meant to be.

Darren: Burt Reynolds.

Victoria: I did this little cameo part in a film with Imelda Staunton, actually. It’s like you’ve got a big, big list of talent and then I played an assistant. I think it was something like a porn producer’s assistant with a clipboard, basically. And I had long hair extensions and really aggressive eyebrows and aggressive lipstick. And I was clicking my fingers, calling people in to audition for something like a racy movie. So it was only a few lines from me. Luckily I was fully clothed, surprisingly. You know, I never got to meet Burt Reynolds. Can you believe that? And now he’s no longer with us. I missed the opportunity. Because my scenes wasn’t with him. But, there you go. There’s my contribution to British cinema there. I haven’t done much since. [Laughing]

LtoR Chris Jared, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt & Silas Wyatt-Barke in Bronco Billy The Musical ©The Other Richard

Darren: You’ve been stuck on the stage.

Victoria: Yeah, I’ve been stuck on the stage. But you know what? I love it. There’s no other place I’d rather be. People say, well, you know, you should go and be on one of those TV shows. I’m like, to be honest, I’m really not interested. I’ve always had a love for theatre. That is where my heart lies. The hours are not great at the moment, actually we’re getting worse with our hours. We’re getting completely rubbish with all the Sunday show nonsense, which is really actually dragging me down. It’s not good for family life, at all. But, I love theatre, my heart is in theatre.

TV and film, I just find it a little bit more restricting. I just love the family hubbub that you get in theatre. You know, I think whenever I’ve been on set, like I’ve only done little shows like Hulk, Holby City and Call the Midwife and obviously like, you know, a Bunch of Amateurs with Burt Reynolds. But it’s quite lonely. You’re just sitting there in your trailer or in your dressing room and no one’s coming to visit you, you’ve got no banter with anyone, you can’t cause any mischief, it’s just all kind of impersonal. You’re called to set, you can do what you’ve got to do and then you leave, you know? Not too much love lost there. Although, I won’t cast it off because I’m just moaning about our theatre schedules with these Sunday shows, which is really kind of putting a spanner in the works. It feels like we’re becoming more of like the Broadway working schedule since COVID.

Darren: Or just choose shows where they don’t do a Sunday matinee. Just do a standard Monday to Saturday.

Victoria: You know, you don’t need to do a matinee on a Sunday. It leaves us no time. It’s not a normal industry anyway, but just to have family time. Some people are carers, some people are parents, we can’t celebrate our kids birthdays, go to their own birthday parties, which is a bit ridiculous. Unless we pull a sickie, or we book it as leave. But then we have to book holiday leave in sets, oh I’m ranting now, aren’t I? I just want to be able to go to my kid’s birthday party on a Sunday, you know? Yeah, it’s sad. So, we’re gonna have to see to that. I don’t mind being a spokesperson for it, to be honest. It seems like I already am! I’m gonna get in trouble. They’re gonna call me up, they’re going, that podcast that you did, Victoria, that interview, we heard it. You’ve been cancelled, babes. You’ve been well and truly cancelled. Now get your butt to that Sunday show! Yeah, oh well. I’ve got a mouth. [Laughing]

Darren: You’ve literally at the end of the run now. So, what’s coming up next? Have you got anything lined up?

Victoria: I’ve got things lined up. I’ve got things cooking. I can’t talk to you about them though, can I? You know, because I certainly will get cancelled then. But I’ve got some cool, fun parts that I’ve been developing. Like, really developing and having a lot of fun with. So it’s just all a matter of time. But you know, these things, they can take a long time to put on the table. Some of these West End workshops that you do for the new up and coming shows, like they won’t come out till another three years or five years down the line. It’s insane. But, yeah, stuff’s brewing and cooking. But I think at the moment what I need to do is because obviously we haven’t got Sundays off after Bronco Billy I’m going to whip those kids and that husband to a nice sunny location, to get some beach air and make it up to them for the loss of their parent over the last 11 weeks. I’m quite happy to have a little break and to be honest, just a little bit of holiday time. I’m on fire. I’m just booking holidays. I don’t know who’s paying for them, but you know, there you go. So we shall see.

Darren: Excellent. You obviously love what you do and I’m guessing that the people you talk to, especially young up and coming performers, what kind of inspiring notes could you give an aspiring performer new in their career? What kind of antidotes would you suggest?

Victoria: Antidotes? Oh, I don’t know. Just, things like this, really. It’s very simple. Just be yourself. Be comfortable to be yourself. But learn, if you, like me, struggled to know who you were growing up. I think I only really knew who I was when I was about 35ish. It’s just like, you know, trust your instincts. Don’t be too easily swayed by others, have your own voice, have your own opinions and trust yourself, just trust yourself to not take things too seriously. You know, it’s just a show or it’s just a, I don’t know, an episode of Casualty. It’s just stuff. It’s not really that important. This moment is so insignificant, like it’s so unimportant. So if I get a bout of nerves, because I get nervous as well, if I’m feeling a bout of nerves because I’ve got to go on stage and maybe I’m feeling a bit poorly or a bit unsure, I just think about how unimportant this is and it’s just an episode in my giant box set that is my life.