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Twelfth Night - BBC Shakespeare Collection 
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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  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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.