Twelfth Night (ATV British television production)
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Top Customer Reviews
Joan Plowright is, by far, my favorite Viola/Cesario. She's convincing in both roles (and, compared to many other Violas, you can believe she might pass as a teenage boy). Plowright is equally impressive in the final act, which requires her to add still more subtleties to her performance.
In the broader comedy roles, it's hard to beat a production that includes Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Tommy Steele. (Steele's manic persona, which is not for all tastes, serves him very well here as Feste.)
The outstanding script adaptation abridges the play to about 100 minutes. The decision to reverse the order of scenes 1 and 2 was ingenious: it makes for a more dramatic opening and allows a type of exposition that television can do well but which could not have been done easily on Shakespeare's stage.
The video itself is slightly grainy (presumably a function of its age), and some minor glitches in the quad tape were not corrected. But these are trifles, and the DVD is very enjoyable.
Be aware that this is a stage-like television production: a play produced on videotape. If you want something more cinematic, Trevor Nunn's 1996 film version is very good.
The story of 12th Night is so well known, it requires some pretty convincing acting, I think, to carry it off successfully. This production has the fine and convincing - even superlative acting, to achieve this unequivocal success.
All the principal actors were magnificent in their roles and even Tommy Steele managed to overcome his well known name as a 'pop' singer - just about! The inclusion of Steele into the cast was inspired - or flawed - depending upon one's view of the man as a singer/performer. Sadly, his well known persona shone brightly through his performance - which would please or annoy, according to one's view of this competent singer.
The story line and plot, Separated in a storm at sea, twins Viola and Sebastian are washed ashore on different parts of the coast of Illyria, each believing the other to be drowned. To protect herself in this unknown land, Viola disguises herself as a young man, Cesario, and enters the service of Duke Orsino --- This1969 production features Joan Plowright played both Viola and Sebastian, with Stratford alumnus Alec Guinness as Malvolio, Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch and, in a notorious example of "stunt" casting, the pop singer Tommy Steele as Feste --- How much better can it get.Read more ›
The strong point is the cast. As others have mentioned, Joan Plowright is superb. What trumps her performance is seeing two giants of British acting performing two clownish roles. First is Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch, who is a drunken, mischievous sot from the beginning, a character out of Falstaff's playbook. Even more fun is Sir Alec Guinness as Malvolio, a stuffed shirt who is turned to the foolish dandy (just a hint of "Death in Venice" here). Tommy Steele as Feste seems to burst out of the Shakespearean role of the musician and seems a bit discordant beside the old hands. Since this production was done for TV, I suspect adding him to the cast helped catch a younger audience.
The filming was all done on a sound stage decorated to look very much like a medieval town in a far away place (Illyria, on the Adriatic coast, which might have the romantic flavor of either the Carpathians or the Greek Isles in the 19th century. The scenery was obviously stage grade mockups rather than using real castles. I think I would have preferred the bare stage of the Globe.
The play was shortened, and I sensed that we missed an important sub-plot, when nothing comes of the plot of Viola's lost brother. Among Shakespeare's plays, I would rate it better than "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and not as good as "As You Like It", although I have not yet finished watching all the comedies.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is splendidly done. But I must confess I prefer the Bard's tragedies and even histories to his comedies. But this play ranks high on Shakespeare's output. I liked it as art. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Freeman Gilbert
In this production, you have a stellar cast who simply can't be beat, in their prime and very much in their element: Shakespeare. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Avery Gordon
Twelfth Night starts out as a farce of mistaken identity, and humor rarely ages well. But about halfway through the play, Shakespeare's characters begin to fight the material,... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Frederick Norwood
I have seen many versions of this delightful tale.
This stage play is great, I ordered it, because of the previous reviews and I am glad I did.
I was not at all pleased with this version of Twelfth Night. Viola had almost no facial expressions, she just looked vaguely pleased for the entire play. Orsino had THE worst wig. Read morePublished on October 29, 2010 by methebookworm
Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's last comedy (as such), bridging directly into the tragedies -- most especially into King Lear, in which the Fool sings precisely the song Feste sings... Read morePublished on October 1, 2010 by Shakespeare
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