This fine staging of Shakespeare's gender-bending comedy is finally available on DVD!
I've seen many productions of "Twelfth Night," and Joan Plowright is by far my favorite Viola/Cesario. She's convincing in both roles (and, compared to many other Violas, she might conceivably pass for a teenage boy). She is even more 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 leering persona 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 on the R1 disc 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 production 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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