📷 : Faye Thomas www.fayethomas.co.uk
Screen and stage actor Sandy Batchelor played the role of Raymond in the 2019 world premiere of Leave to Remain at Lyric Hammersmith and has recently finished performing in Firebrand Theatre’s production of Bill McLaren: The Voice of Rugby. Sandy has starred in Rupert, Rupert & Rupert as the titled character and as Dr Franklin Spitz in False Witness, with both features produced by Substantial Films. With TV mini-series Ordeal by Innocence being screened on BBC last year, Sandy filmed for one of the episodes as Simon, with the production’s cast including Bill Nighy and Anna Chancellor. Earlier this month, Sandy spoke to us about filming Rupert, Rupert & Rupert, playing Raymond in Leave to Remain and touring with Strangers on a Train.
How did it feel working on Bill McLaren: The Voice of Rugby?
Developing the story of Bill McLaren: The Voice of Rugby was extraordinary. As a fan of rugby, he’s someone I grew up with on the telly and on radio, and to have the chance to play him was surreal and wonderful. There were obviously challenges in playing someone who is so well-loved and well-known, the fear of not doing him and his story justice is always at the back of your mind but we had a fantastic response, not just from the audience, but from Bill’s family, which was very important to me.
What can you tell us about appearing as Raymond in Leave to Remain at Lyric Hammersmith?
Raymond was a lovely character to play. Fun and innocent and quirky, Matt Jones and Kele Okereke had written a character with such depth that playing every night was always enjoyable, there were constantly new ways to try things and experiment.
Had you worked on a one-act show previously and how do you find performing in these opposed to those with an interval?
I’ve done a few one-act shows and I’m big fan. Stepping into the world of the play and being there without the breather of interval adds an element of continuation that I think can sometimes be lost when an interval is introduced. Not having to pick the play up again in the second act certainly has its advantages. Although I appreciate this isn’t always possible, nobody wants to sit through a four-hour Hamlet without a loo break!
What was Lyric Hammersmith like to perform at?
The Lyric is a lovely combination of old and new. The auditorium is a classic proscenium arch but with all the advantages of modern building. The people in the theatre also feel much more like a community which is how it should be. Theatre should be for everyone and the Lyric really feels like a place where everyone can come together to create and learn and develop and explore.
How did you find the experience touring with Strangers on a Train?
I hadn’t toured for a few years and it was great to get out on the road. I was lucky to be working with a fantastic group of people which can really make the difference on tour. Touring in a play is a great way to see parts of the country you might not have seen before or haven’t visited in a while and it’s a joy to do this under the guise of work.
Were you familiar with the story and character of Frank Myers before being cast and what drew you to the show?
I hadn’t actually read any Patricia Highsmith before working on Strangers but I knew the rough story from the Hitchcock movie. Craig Warner’s adaptation is much more aligned to the book so it was nice to explore the aspects of the story that were unknown to me. Frank Myers’ character added an element of light relief as a kind of goofball in a very dark, twisted and unnerving story, it’s always fun to play something contrasting with the main plot.
What was it like filming your episode of Ordeal by Innocence?
Ordeal by Innocence was pretty short but very sweet. We filmed up in Greenock which is just across the River Clyde from where I started life, so it was wonderful to be in that part of the world again. Mammoth Production and the BBC had put together a superb team so filming on the day was excellent. Nipping in for a couple of days onto a set that has been up and running for a few weeks can sometimes be daunting but it was great to be immediately accepted into the team.
Can you say about the film Rupert, Rupert & Rupert and what did you enjoy about playing your character?
Rupert was an amazing project to be a part of. It was my first lead in a feature film so I was involved from quite near the beginning of pre-production. Rupert is a young guy who has dissociative identity disorder, more commonly referred to as multiple personality disorder so I was actually playing three different Ruperts. This obviously involved three times the usual amount of character study and prep and swapping between the identities, sometimes during lines.
How long were you filming for this role and what did you think of the script when reading it for the first time?
I think we filmed pretty much non-stop for a month so it was fairly intense. I loved Mick Sands’ script when I read it, I love black comedy and this is about as dark and comedic as it comes. But it was also very sensitively written. DID is a real disorder that seriously affects people’s lives so it was important we got that right.
Rupert, Rupert & Rupert was produced by Substantial Films who have also produced False Witness which you filmed as Franklin, how did you find your time working with them again?
I’ve become great friends with Tom, Mick and Phil at Substantial Films so it was a joy to be asked to come on board with False Witness. Mick had put together another cracking script so it was a no-brainer to get back on board with them.
What was it like playing Dr Franklin Spitz and how would you describe him?
Franklin is a very dark, complex and troubled character. He’s a psychotherapist that uses particularly abrasive methods to try and help or cure the patients he is treating. Unfortunately, he has his own very troubling problems that reveal themselves throughout the course of the story.
You’ve appeared in The Rise of the Krays and The Fall of the Krays, what were these like to do?
We shot these films back-to-back so it was great to have that continuation even though they would eventually end up being two separate features. A bit like doing a play without an interval. It was great fun to be bringing the story of these two infamous characters to screen, lots of cars and fights and grotty pubs, it was a total riot.
One of the recent short films you’ve worked on is A Mothers Ruin, are you able to say any more about the production?
I was asked to come on to A Mothers Ruin by Megan O’Connoll, who is currently a student at the MetFilm School. She put together a terrific script that was a personal story based on her grandparents. I saw it a few weeks ago and I’m delighted with the result. She’s a fantastic director, I can’t wait to see what she goes on to.
What is it like working on video games?
Most of the work I have done on video games has been in a recording studio (as opposed to motion capture which is more like filming). It can be extremely fast-paced and intense – lines are put up on a screen with a volume level and intensity level and often there is only time to do a couple of takes. It’s a discipline that is like no other in the acting world but something I really enjoy.
Had you considered a career away from acting?
I can’t remember ever thinking that I wouldn’t be an actor. I’ve had a number of side jobs, like any actor, but acting has always been the focus. I’ve recently started my own film production company Old Mouse Films which is keeping me busy.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on or have any upcoming you can talk about?
I’m currently producing a feature film called ALL OUT. It’s the true story of how Freuchie, a working-class village cricket team from rural Fife, spun, hooked and drank their way to glory at Lord’s, beating England’s finest at the home of cricket. It’s an amazing story and we’ve had a ton of really great interest and support.
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