On Sunday, X Factor will once more break free of the confines of Wembley Arena (probably so someone can take a look at that roof. Cheryl’s been very concerned about it being blown off) and head to a rather gorgeous country manor. It’s this year’s revamped Boot Camp, where the singers return for their second auditions.
Hosts Olly Murs and Caroline Flack will of course be in attendance and there should be more screen time for Caroline who, by the time Boot Camp was recorded, had wrapped on her other gig, ITV2’s Love Island, meaning she could say goodbye to flying backwards and forwards between the two shows.
It was 2011 when X Factor last decamped to a lavish mansion for this stage of the competition and despite the luxury surroundings it was pretty brutal. Acts were sent home almost as soon as they got there, not a key change uttered, after a second round of judges’ deliberations. This year, some of the acts given four yeses in their original auditions have already been cut, meaning they’ll be spared that public dismissal (X Factor insiders say it was the “most thoughtful option”) but we won’t get to see them again.
The judges are seen below greeting this year’s surviving acts but all four weren’t always in attendance. With filming continuing late into the night Grimmers would dash off to get in enough kip before his early morning radio show. But sometimes there was an extra judge – or at least he did his best to be – with Simon Cowell’s son Eric bopping along at the sidelines and every now and then making a break for the judges’ desk.
The setting is impressive, a large stage erected in the stunning grounds, with the judges nearby under their own gazebo. The first challenge saw the acts team up to perform a song together. This, for the first time, came with a rulebook: acts had to collaborate with singers from at least three different categories, rather than sticking with their own.
Then it was back to solo performances. As each act sung their heart out the rest of the contestants sat in a holding room watching the auditions. Whether that helped with nerves or not remains to be seen. The acts weren’t given any feedback from the judges, but would dash over to Caz and Olly for some comforting words.
It’s a nice change to be out of Wembley – Boot Camp has something of a Judges’ Houses feel to it – and the lack of crowd was no doubt a bit of a breather for the acts before the terrifying prospect of the Six Chair Challenge back in the Arena…
The X Factor continues this Saturday (auditions) and Sunday (Boot Camp) on ITV