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Twelfth Night - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1980]

Alec McCowen , Robert Hardy , John Gorrie    Universal, suitable for all   DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: £9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Twelfth Night  - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1980] + Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996]
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Product details

  • Actors: Alec McCowen, Robert Hardy, Felicity Kendall, Robert Lindsay, Annette Crosbie
  • Directors: John Gorrie
  • Writers: William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Cedric Messina
  • Format: PAL, Colour, Full Screen, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: BBC Worldwide
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000V3UOGG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,237 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors - TWELFTH NIGHT [1980] Viola and Sebastian are identical twins, separated by a shipwreck. Landing in Illyria, Viola disguises herself as her brother and goes in to the service of Duke Orsino. When the Duke sends her to help him woo the Lady Olivia, the obstacles of unrequited love, self-deceit and mistaken identity soon lead an assortment of lovers on a merry dance. Perhaps the most popular of Shakespeare's comedies, TWELFTH NIGHT considers the nature of love, tru love, self-love and friendship. This star-filled production won great acclaim for its energy and for its inclusion of the play's often overlooked darker elements.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Helen
Twelfth Night is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays so I'm quite fussy about how it's presented. I'm rather disappointed by this version, not because it's bad but because it lacks the charm and insight of the Trevor Nunn movie which is completely wonderful. It's also not as well acted - quite a few of the characters I felt were miscast. However, there are good things too. Robert Hardy, Robert Lindsey both stand out. Olivia, Sebastian, Maria and Antonio are cast well. Sir Andrew, the Duke and Malvolio are all a bit disappointing. The Duke could have done with more style and conviction and the actor projecting that this is the leader of a country who's been in battle with Messaline. It needed a more dynamic actor. Malvolio was quite boring although the cross-gartering was amazing.

Viola. What can one say? This is a very good actress of course, but she doesn't look the part and she doesn't sound remotely boyish either. We know Cesario is supposed to look feminine as the Duke tells us so. But this Cesario is overloaded to ludicrous proportions with a mass of ostentatious, glamorous tresses falling all over her shoulders and for some area around, as though she were Rita Hayworth. It's daft, unless one's supposed to imagine the Duke spends his time (when not mooning) curling and stroking all this hair to keep it so incredibly curly and glossy? I cringed. Sebastian's hair is far more restrained and he looks good. It may be this is the actress's own hair and on her briefly as Viola it looks lovely, but on Cesario, oh dear no. She needed to cut it back quite a bit. How Olivia or anyone could think this is a boy beats me.

However, all the Beeb complete Shakespeare productions are good so this is always worth seeing even if the acting by some of the actors leaves something to be desired. It's never bad, just a little limp.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another BBC classy production 23 Nov 2011
Although I agree with a couple of the other reviews who feel that not all the acTORS are as strong as the could be, I enjoyed this production. This is not just a comedy because it has its darker strands, and exploring them in depth is difficult. The BBC, I felt, went for the middle course, leaning towards the comedy and, for me, it worked.

It is not an easy play to do well because it should work on so mnay different levels. This is not to crticize John Gorrie, the director, who did a very competent job with the following list of stellard British actors.

Alec McCowen ... Malvolio
Robert Hardy ... Sir Toby Belch
Felicity Kendal ... Viola
Annette Crosbie ... Maria
Sinéad Cusack ... Olivia
Trevor Peacock ... Feste
Clive Arrindell ... Orsino
Ronnie Stevens ... Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Robert Lindsay ... Fabian
Maurice Roëves ... Antonio
Michael Thomas ... Sebastian
Malcolm Reynold ... Valentine
Ryan Michael ... Curio
Ric Morgan ... Sea Captain
Arthur Hewlett ... Priest

It is always possible to pick holes in productions but I prefer to concentrate on the better elements and this production has plenty. The BBC did Shakespeare proud.

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3.0 out of 5 stars A very sunny version of this play 29 Jan 2011
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is almost a production in two halves: the Orsino/Viola/Olivia part works quite well and, unlike some other reviewers, I didn't find Felicity Kendall unbelievable as a Renaissance boy. However the Malvolio/Toby Belch/Andrew Aguecheek half felt very flat to me. I felt the actor playing Malvolio didn't have the obsequiousness necessary, and the clowning just felt tiresome. One of the best parts was the clear desire felt by Antonio for Sebastian, something which is sometimes flattened in modern productions.

So overall this is an ok production which both works and doesn't. I especially thought that it's all too sunny, and lacks some of the darker shades which infuse this play. Kendall's Viola/Cesario is impish and charming but lacks the depth to convey either her unrequited love for Orsino, or her response to Sebastian. So not a terrible production but one which doesn't really do justice to Shakespeare's text.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but dull 5 Mar 2008
This is one of the full set of Shakespeare for TV that the BBC did (presumably as part of their Reithian remit to educate the nation). It's a pretty dull production. The pace is plodding. The sets, costumes and the acting styles are straight out of the BBC's "Heritage" cupboard.
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