ITV Sunday Night Theatre: Season 2, Episode 44

Twelfth Night (6 Jan. 1969)
"ITV Saturday Night Theatre" Twelfth Night (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 52 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 1 critic

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Title: Twelfth Night (06 Jan 1969)

Twelfth Night (06 Jan 1969) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy Steele ...
...
...
...
...
...
John Moffatt ...
Sheila Reid ...
Riggs O'Hara ...
Paul Curran ...
Richard Leech ...
Antonio
John Byron ...
Priest
Christopher Timothy ...
Kurt Christian ...
Gerald Moon ...
Gardener's boy
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Drama

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6 January 1969 (Sweden)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Version of Twelfth Night (1957) See more »

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Two giants unbalance the play
9 September 2008 | by See all my reviews

Sometimes you'll see an actor who makes such a huge impression that he overwhelms the dimensions of the play. That's what happens here, only there's two of them. Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Alec Guinness are each so powerful that they burst the confines of the performance like an exploding hot dog casing, and their combined presences unbalance the whole proportion of Shakespeare's play.

Richardson's Sir Toby Belch is a magnificent drunk act, never straining to be funny, but always effortlessly conveying the character's humor. Guinness's Malvolio is also gigantic, a self-deceiving fool who is strong enough to be a physical threat to the other characters who make fun of him. His capering in yellow stockings goes beyond silly past eccentric all the way to menacing. Guinness's delivery of Malvolio's longest speech is a lesson in how to perform Shakespeare.

However the play is about Viola and her travails and the unsuccessful courtship of Olivia by the Duke, and these mere mortals don't have a chance. Joan Plowright was not an experienced Shakespearian, and appears to have been spoonfed her performance by her husband, whom you may have heard of. Time and again, she rolls her eyes or finishes a couplet in a way to make you see the ghost of Lord Olivier hovering over her. It's not a bad performance, but she's too busy coping to find the humanity in the part, and overall is not terribly effective.

The rest of the cast is simply obliterated. Most are fine but they don't have a chance. The glaring exception is Tommy Steele. Unknown in the U.S., he was Britain's first manufactured rock star, famous at home mostly for doing cover versions of American hits for the U.K. market. As Feste, he's merely obnoxious, seeming to think the play's about him, and that he's doing Shakespeare a favor rather than the other way round. Thanks but no thanks.

There is an overrated "potluck Shakespeare" film from 1996 with a whole bunch of stars, but Trevor Nunn's direction is lethargic and diffused and sabotages almost the entire cast. The movie gets wonderful reviews from people who don't know any better, and should be avoided.

For a well-balanced, almost ideal video performance of this play, the 1980 BBC version features Felicity Kendal, Sinead Cusack, Alec McCowen and an ensemble cast that just about vibrates together. It's a family, and you can actually imagine them all living in the same village together. That would remain my first choice for "Twelfth Night."

But if you want to see evidence that giants once walked the earth, this Richardson/Guinness video would be a good place to start.


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