Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Rowan Atkinson: Understated Hyper Comedy
Rowan Atkinson is a rare commodity- a natural born actor. He is so pure a comedian that he personifies the character rather enacting it. He chose comedy and stamped it with his subdued charisma. Ease and understatement are the chief ingredients of his genius. Understatement and Mr Bean. Sounds odd but Mr Bean or the character played by Atkinson is always in lower key. Any actor who has ‘learnt‘ acting will play it in much higher octave than an actor for whom acting is like breathing. With Atkinson this is a skill that is instinctive rather than honed.
This allows him to really compartmentalize. From available accounts, he is a very shy person with a passion for fast car and a very private family life. He doesn’t have to be a buffoon all the time as he can summon comedy at will. Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in Blackadder with "cunning plan" fame told this to the Guardian, "he's one of the few mega performers who genuinely has a full and fulfilling life away from showbusiness….. he remains for me the consummate comedy performer of his generation." Robinson added: "He's a very shy man, ….. When he's not working, you are unlikely to realise that he's in the room, but as soon as he starts, all attention focuses on him, partly because of this extraordinary supreme talent that he's got."
It is this instinctive nature of his acting that protects him from being overshadowed. British TV is veritable playfield of giants of comedy and Atkinson has shared screen with most of them. Veterans like Stephen Fry and Huge Laurie have the potential of eating up any artist simply by deploying their well timed histrionics. However, with Atkinson, their monumental talent only enhances the canvass already created by the understated hyper comedy. Black Adder was Rowan Atkinson all the way despite the presence of stalwarts with scene grabbing lines. This happens because he is not dependent on props to create humour. He is great in wordy comedy like Black Adder and equally devastating in physical laugh riot of Mr Bean.