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Twelfth Night (ATV British television production)

4.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Ralph Richardson and Joan Plowright star in this merry on-stage mix-up of identity, gender and love in Tony Award-winner John Dexter’s production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Originally broadcast on Britain’s ITV, this classic performance captures all the slapstick, puns and double entendres that have amazed and amused audiences for over four hundred years.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Sir Alec Guinness, Tommy Steele, Sir Ralph Richardson, Joan Plowright, Gary Raymond
  • Directors: John Sichel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Koch Vision
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013D8LWC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,307 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Twelfth Night (ATV British television production)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Capsuto on August 23, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've been waiting for years for a DVD release of this fine staging of Shakespeare's gender-bending comedy. I first saw this production on A&E cable in the 1980s and enjoyed it tremendously.

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.
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With Alec Guinness at his finest; how can anything, he is in, fail?

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.
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I thought that this was a simply staged but beautifully acted production. Unlike some of the earlier reviewers I thought that each character was nicely acted. I particularly liked the clarity of the diction -- every word was reasonably easy to follow. The images are clear; the sound was also clear. The play moves along and I found myself immersed in the production. It was hard to dispell the image of Mr. Guiness as Obi Wan Kenobi. He used a vocal range and tone similar to his famous Star Wars characterization, but I felt that his interpretation of Malvolio one of the best I have seen.
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I have seen no other versions of Twelfth Night, but I have seen many other Shakespearean comedies. This performance has one especially strong virtue and one or two weaknesses.

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.
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In this production, you have a stellar cast who simply can't be beat, in their prime and very much in their element: Shakespeare. Sir Alec Guinness and Sir Ralph Richardson alone make this production sumptuous! A surprise is Tommy Steele, who was known more as a teen idol and dancer than a Shakespearean actor. But in this John Dexter production, it's all a blast! One of the great theatre performances captured on video.
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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. But I couldn't enjoy it as I would KING LEAR. But that's just me.
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Format: DVD
Koch Vision and BBC presents "TWELFTH NIGHT" (6 January 1969) (103 mins/Color) (Dolby Digital) --- Splendidly acted -- Award winning performances --- In 1969 this version of William Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT reached U.K. television screens --- The production, which was directed by John Dexter and John Sichel, includes an all-star cast, with Alec Guinness in the role of Malvolio and Joan Plowright playing Viola plus Gary Raymond and John Moffat

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.
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