Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, Tower Street, York, in rep until September 1. Box office: 01904 623568 or 0844 847 2483 or at

TWELFTH Night falls on January 5, deep amid the winter's chill of taking down all evidence of Christmas.

Shakespeare's play, however, has the full title of Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, and what director Joyce Branagh wills is that we should look to the text of Act 3, Scene 3. "Why, this is very midsummer madness," it exhorts.

And so, Shakespeare's second most popular comedy behind A Midsummer Night's Dream becomes a midsummer night's dream of a summer show, courtesy of Kenneth Branagh's younger sister, who puts the Joy into Joyce as she serves up "Comedy Glamour" with a Charleston dash and double acts at the double.

The shift of season, to match the summer dates, the pop-up theatre's open roof, the multitude of afternoon performances and the play's inexorably sunny disposition, is but the first of a series of winning directorial decisions.

Taking Duke Orsino's "If music be the food of love," as her cue, Branagh gives us a Jazz Age Twelfth Night, with composer Eamonn O'Dwyer's musicians ever present to the side of the stage, rather than high up, almost out of view (as has been the case in the other three productions). What's more, they are joined by actor-musicians from Branagh's cast, notably Richard Standing's striped-pantalooned courtier Curio on double bass; Hannah Francis-Baker's Dulcima on trumpet and saxophone; Claire Storey on clarinet, Alex Phelps's Sir Andrew Aguecheek on ukulele and Fine Time Fontayne's Sir Toby Belch, having a fine old time on left-handed guitar after delivering another of Belch's whipped forehands of barbed wit.

Wreh-asha Walton's Valentine sets the tone with her gorgeously uplifting singing; Clare Corbett's Feste, Olivia's clown, is the sad counterpoint in a song of death, but brings out the tap shoes for a burst of positivity immediately after the interval.

This summer's other shows have been less assertive in adapting the wood and steel design: here, scenic designer Max Dorey goes for boldest pink: the letters Illyria lit up, as if for the entrance to a jazz club, above an Art Deco frieze. The effect is like a lipstick kiss planted on a cheek.

Detail after detail is delicious: a black and white umbrella; a lamp in the shape of a bust of a woman in gold; an elegant chaise longue; 1920s' microphones; tropical plants for a conservatory. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Then add Sara Perks' perky costume designs from that era of divine fashion that we so loved in Brideshead Revisited too, but colours and designs newly emboldened for comedic emphasis.

From the off, making good use of the groundling floor space and myriad possibilities for entrances, Branagh's company is bursting with energy, both in speech and physical comedy, timed as if for a Keaton or Chaplin film.

The cast is dividing its summer between Hamlet and Twelfth Night, and so David Oakes and Serena Manteghi (Hamlet and Ophelia) have light duties here as bungling policemen. Claire Storey steps to the fore as pompous, moustachioed Malvolio, more butler than steward to Olivia, whose yellow stocking "reveal" brings the house down before the loneliness of bird-cage humiliation.

Mark Holgate's cream-suited Orsino, Duke of Illyria, and Leandra Ashton's always-in-black countess Olivia, enter the spirit to the full; Olivia Onyehara's Viola/Cesario and Marcello Cruz's doppelganger Sebastian have a ball with all the confusion of mistaken identities and misread intentions. Antony Bunsee's briefly seen Sir Topas still manages some scene-stealing.

Love, romance, lust, play out in diverse forms, but it is the mischief-makers that "strive to please you every day" that please you most in every way. Veteran Fine Time Fontayne is a past master of comedy, his Sir Toby leading the way as you would expect, producing bottles from nowhere like a magician, spinning his scarf around his neck before one exit. Panache with a paunch.

The new discovery is Alex Phelps's hapless Sir Andrew, floppy haired, buffoonish in striped trousers and striped socks, his timing spot on, daftness in excelsis.

Corbett's ducking and diving clown Feste and Rina Mahoney's meddlesome lady-in-waiting Maria are top notch too, and discovery number two is Cassie Vallance's goofy, toothy servant Fabian, her face a picture throughout.

Branagh wanted "The Great Gatsby meets PG Wodehouse with a touch of Some Like It Hot". Clearly told, clever, witty, romantic, fabulous and fun, Twelfth Night should be your choice if you can see only one Rose in bloom this summer.

Charles Hutchinson