The RSC’s season continues at the Roundhouse with As You Like It, Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy, directed by Michael Boyd. As someone who has only studied the play not seen it, I imagined that the text would be  illuminated as it is transposed from page to stage, yet this was far from the reality. Boyd’s production places emphasis on the comedic nature of Shakespeare’s foolery within the play, losing sight of what should be a blossoming love in paradise.

As the exiled daughter of the former Duke, Katy Stephens’s Rosalind doesn’t flourish under Boyd’s direction, she is restricted first as woman and then as man. The subtle beginnings of love and devotion – of determined drive to win the love of Orlando (Jonjo O’Neill) – is overshadowed by her attempts to remain disguised as a man. With a warbling high and low tone of voice, and a feminine flounce across the thrust staging, Stephens isn’t nearly as alluring as you’d hope Rosalind to be, missing missing the internal conflicts of the character understanding what love is (or could be)..

O’Neill’s Orlando is characteristically more relaxed and easier to connect with. Portraying at times a helpless fool to love, whilst still retaining a sense of dignity, he comes across as the most solid character within the show. Perhaps it is relating to Tom Piper’s design, especially the costumes, which see an ever-changing succession of periods on the stage ending with modern day wear. A love story for modern times? Not quite. Both O’Neill and Piper would perhaps belong better in Romeo and Juliet – that at least can offer a sense of timeless love, rather than the pastoral ho-down presented here.

If I were to focus solely on the comedic nature of the show, then I’d be overjoyed by the foolery and buffoonery that As You Like It allows, and as Boyd has extracted with playful excitement. There is always a fool to steal the night, and Richard Katz’s Touchstone with frizzy hair, clown shoes and a never-ending stream of wit, leaves Boyd’s production with befuddled laughter. Whilst it is easy to sit back and enjoy the slapstick humour, the narrative of misguided? lovers and banishment from court into the wilderness passes by with no real impact.

Piper’s design doesn’t allow for a sense of a forest or wilderness to construct the action within, instead cardboard letters and words scatter the stage. If the emphasis was on the culmination of love as the design suggests, I only wish Boyd would have allowed the characters to revel in the revealing of Rosalind as a woman and the implications of this, instead of the rushed wedding and epilogue.

As You Like It? As I Half Like It is perhaps more fitting. Take it at face value, but don’t expect anything truly tender or revealing to emerge.

As You Like It is playing at the Roundhouse until 5th February. Book tickets and more information on the website.