A BLEAK postmodern cabinet office in which battling politicians wrestle each other to within an inch of their lives.

A trippy Forest of Arden, complete with hippy musicians, festival-style pop-up tents, red telephone box and a solitary bare tree. And a modern water cooler which appears in every scene.

This may be Shakespeare’s great pastoral comedy, but it is not quite like anything we’ve seen before.

Theatre company Shared Experience like to do things differently, and for their production at the Oxford Playhouse, summon up settings and situations as familiar to us now as the traditional scenes would have been only to Elizabethan audiences.

So the Duchy’s court is a sleek office, lined with riveted walls and long boardroom table – upon which the usurping occurs. Arden, on the other hand, is a burst of light and colour – revealed to us by some slick set work in which the gunmetal-grey walls of the court are swept apart, opening onto an odd landscape consisting of the aforementioned telephone box and tree – action taking place upon and beneath the two. The backdrop is one large screen onto which animals and birds are intermittently projected. It’s subtle and quite beautiful.

And then there’s that watercooler – which stays in place – a bizarre modern totem.

While it’s different, it’s not wacky; director Kate Saxon keeping her vision playful without being gimmicky.

What else is different? Well love interest Rosalind (a wonderful Jessica Hayles) – daughter to the usurped Duke Senior and her amusingly high-maintenance, Louis Vuitton-toting companion Celia (Layo-Christina Akinlude) are wonderfully feisty black women. There is, flirting, comic cross-dressing and homo-eroticism and some pretty cool rock music – and fabulous clarinet playing by the brilliant sprite-like Josie Dunn (who plays Arden local Phebe as well as Duke Frederick's campaigner Denise).

The fool Touchstone (Matthew Mellalieu) is delightfully camp, seemingly channelling Christopher Biggins. Broad Yorkshire shepherd (Adam Buchanan) is a surprise star excellent and his banter believable. How little farming has really changed since Elizabethan times.

This is the same tale of jealousy, political ambition, freedom, romance and hope we know and love, but one which is accessible, recognisable and fun. An ideal introduction to Shakespeare for the novice or pupil and a loveable twist on a classic for the scholar.

There is much to love here. This is Shakespeare, just as I like it.

Tim Hughes 4/5

* As You Like it runs at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Go to Oxfordplayhouse.com