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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > British TV > Twelfth Night (Thames)

Twelfth Night (or What You Will/Thames)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Telefilm: B



Before his theatrical film run of Shakespeare like nothing since the work of Sir Laurence Olivier, starting with Henry V in 1989, Kenneth Branagh directed a stage version of Twelfth Night for Thames TV in 1988 with producer/director Paul Kafno doing the actual videotaped portions based on Branagh’s specific approach.  The story is a comedy about love, identity and switching gender roles just to get closer to someone.  Ever subversive, this 165-minutes version is pretty good, with another cast of strong unknowns who are very-knowns on the British stage.


Yes, there are the moments where the characters talk to the audience, which those finding frustration getting into the piece in the first place to be even more annoying or condescending, but The Bard uses this device to make the absurd more so and does not allow it to be personal thoughts that is too self-contained.  If and when you do get it, the absurd is actually heightened.  I am very hard on productions of Shakespeare and put the full burden of the success on the actors and director to bring a given work to life.  When they do not, they profoundly fail the material.  Once again in this series, they succeed and it is no wonder Branagh quickly launched to do such work in feature films and caused a whole new cycle of Shakespeare in the Cinema.


The 1.33 X 1 image was produced on professional analog PAL video of the time and is a little softer than expected outside of any stylizing.  Color can be odd at times, but it is not too distracting once you get adjusted.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 takes the original monophonic sound (which it still sounds like) and boosts it to simple stereo.  The result is a passable presentation.  The only extras are a repeat of the Shakespeare Timeline form the other DVDs in the series and a Branagh interview that run about 11 minutes dubbed Inside An Illyrian Winter.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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