Creating and Destroying Values

Published by ShawnKinley on


A quick way to make the audience care.

Rowan Atkinson’s, mostly silent, obsessive character, Mr Bean is engaging to watch regardless of the language you speak. We know exactly what he wants and he’s obsessive about getting it.

The simple nature of Mr. Bean can teach us something useful when we are on stage.

What a character wants is a sign of their values. Place something of nearly the same value within reach and conflict gives us theatre. The man on the diet sees a chocolate bar left on the counter. He values what the diet gives him but that chocolate bar offers something more in this moment.  We can all identify with that sort of dilemma.

The value of love is tormented by work. The value of integrity is tormented by the greedy distraction of easy money. The value of safety is tormented by the desire for variety and adventure.

Mr Bean’s values usually come into conflict with what is socially acceptable.  The torment and how he resolves it gives us comedy.  We enjoy and sometimes cringe when everything goes wrong.

In one scene Mr Bean is on his way to an amusement park. He’s been planning for the fun and thrills but on his way, he unexpectantly finds himself in the care of a baby.  He knows what he “SHOULD DO”… but he also knows what would be fun. Care for the child or go play on a rollercoaster and bumper cars?

Where Mr Bean differs from most of us is the point where he has to choose what is “right” versus what is fun for him.  We get to enjoy a cathartic ride with a self-focused character doing things that a part of us would secretly like to do. 

When a character chooses one thing strongly in the story the world has a tool to use for torment.  

Mr Bean loves Teddy (his teddy bear). Mr Bean obsesses over him. He shows his love by reading a book with him and realizing that Teddy’s eyes are weak, he makes a little pair of glasses for him. Bean cares for him like a child.

SIDENOTE: We KNOW Mr Bean loves Teddy because he shows it in actions. Bean doesn’t tell us or verbalise the love. Showing is better than telling.   

What happens now when Mr Bean places Teddy gently on top of what looks like a solid surface so that he can tie his shoelace? That solid surface is actually a car and it drives off with Teddy in tow.

It’s the end of the world for Mr Bean as he watches his tiny friend driving away.  The adventure begins. We’ve invested our emotions into the reality because Mr Bean’s affection has been shown and his highest valued relationship is being torn from him. We can empathize with that loss.

It’s important to spend the time at the beginning of your scene to establish values.  What do you like? Who do you care for? Smile, appreciate and adore them. (Show that you like whatever it is. Don’t just say it.)

Then… play with destroying the value or challenge it with a higher value. It’s cruel but it’s fun for the audience.


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