John Batchelor gets silly in THE ODD COUPLE

Sydney theatre-goers, get ready for a delightful evening of laughter as Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Odd Couple takes the stage!

First performed in 1965, this timeless play has been a staple of American theatre, known for its sharp wit and enduring humor. The story centers around Felix Ungar, an obsessively neat and uptight man, and his friend Oscar Madison, a carefree and slovenly sportswriter. After their respective marriages fall apart, Felix moves in with Oscar, leading to a series of comedic misadventures as their drastically different personalities clash.

The Odd Couple is celebrated for its brilliant dialogue and richly drawn characters, capturing the essence of friendship amidst chaos. The play’s success led to various adaptations, including a popular film in 1968 and a beloved television series in the 1970s, cementing its place in pop culture history.

As this iconic comedy opens in Sydney, we chat with John Batchelor, who plays Roy, one of Oscar Madison’s poker buddies.

John Batchelor

John is a familiar face to Australian audiences following his five-season stint as the loveable Chief Petty Officer Andy ‘Charge’ Thorpe on the Nine Network series Sea Patrol, which was also broadcast worldwide including USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Germany, and as the larger than life character Peeto in the AACTA winning film Red Dog. John starred in the Chinese/Australian feature The Whistleblower. Other feature film highlights include The Tenderhook, Chasing Comets, Walt Disney Pictures’ Inspector Gadget 2, Danny Deckchair, Peter Rabbit 2, The Appleton Ladies Potato Race and shorts including The Lotus Room (Accolade Comedy Actor, Exposure Film Festival) and The Oblong Box (Best Actor, Queensland New Filmmakers’ Awards). In addition to Sea Patrol, John’s television highlights include Barons, Underbelly: Razor as Kate Leigh’s underworld ‘right handman’
Wally Tomlinson, The Great Mint Swindle, Brock, Harrow, The Secret Daughter, Home and Away and Devil’s Dust.

However John’s first love is the stage and there he has enjoyed such productions including Storm Boy (MTC), The Way of the World, Festen and Top Coat (STC), Holding Achilles (World Premiere, Dead Puppets Society), Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus + Cressida, Julius Caesar (Bell Shakespeare), Christmas at Turkey Beach, Oz Shorts and Managing Carmen (QTC), as well as The Underpants, The Misanthrope, A Doctor in Spite of Himself, Deathwish, Bouncers, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many more. His five years working in Brisbane gained him two Matilda Awards for his work in Queensland Theatre.

Can you tell me a bit about your background with performing?

John: My history of performing has been long and varied. While I loved Acting from a very young age and later studied it at NIDA, graduating in 1992, I’ve always considered it an Art that grows with learning, watching, reading and most importantly doing. I love
deconstructing scripts, working with people, reading their non-verbal cues and finding the essence of a character. I started off loving the stage and what a live audience gave you as you performed and how that changed with every performance. Then, slowly but surely, I started doing more film and TV work and the acting evolved into a more intimate style, which was a lovely thing to learn and perform. Then I started finding myself in a lot of Voice Over studios working with the microphone and all the skills you needed to
make that work. It has been a very interesting 32 years, and I won’t rattle oF all the jobs, but I will highlight a few things: In Brisbane, I had the joy of doing a couple of Moliere plays, which were thrilling. Then I came to the Bell Shakespeare Company for several productions which were absolutely electrifying. In TV I was very lucky to be in a show called Sea Patrol for 5 years, where I learnt that craft and took it to other productions like Underbelly: Razor, The Tender Hook and Red Dog. I truly loved working on those productions.

The Odd Couple was written over 50 years ago – why do you think audiences still find the show relevant?

John: I think the timelessness of the Odd Couple stems from Neil Simon’s writing. Whilst I’ve never done a production of his before, I’ve seen plenty and there’s one thing about the American writers of his time and that is, there are no words put there by mistake. He came through the world of live comedy television and if it wasn’t funny, it wouldn’t go on and he wouldn’t get paid. Every word, pause, stress is intentional and is put there for a reason, our job is to find that and build a believable character around those words. I truly believe every one of us has done just that.

Do you see any of yourself in your character?

John: Funnily enough, I thought I was going to study accountancy when I left school because I loved numbers and Math almost as much as Acting…almost. Roy finds a lot of things wrong with Oscar and his way of life and that is not me. I’m the one people come to with their problems and I tell them everything is great and they’re amazing. I’m the “glass is way more than half full” guy so, that’s very different to Roy. And Roy is a much snappier dresser than I am, I’m a t-shirt and jeans guy and Roy loves his suit.

What has been the most challenging part of working on the show?

John: The most challenging part for me professionally has been finding the through line of the thoughts in the first scene, the dialogue is shared with the 6 characters sporadically and it works beautifully but was very tricky when we first started. Personally, I have a beautiful family in Sydney and being away from them for 2 months has been very hard. I’m looking forward to coming back to Sydney to be at home again.

And the most exciting?

John: The most exciting thing for me, apart from doing a Neil Simon play is this cast. It is so cool to go to work with these people every day. They are truly amazing talents and incredibly lovely people at the same time. While I don’t get to be in the scene with Lucy and Penny, I got to watch it every day in rehearsal and I cried laughing EVERYDAY!

Can you describe The Odd Couple in 5 words?

John: Fast, Funny, Frivolous, Frenetic Fabulous


The Odd Couple is currently playing at Sydney’s Theatre Royal.

For tickets and more information, visit theoddcoupleplay.com.au


Header image credit: Pia Johnson

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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