Director Michael Boyd opts for the simplest of staging for his compelling new production of As You Like It for the RSC, thereby focusing attention firmly on the words, which are, of course, this play’s chief joy. Tom Piper’s set is confined to a wide woodblock panel at the rear, with many trapdoors, reminiscent of the ‘joke wall’ in Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

The sylvan love frolics occur in a Forest of Arden without a single tree. Where is the lovelorn Orlando (Jonjo O’Neill) to pin his doggerel verses in praise of Rosalind? The answer is supplied after the interval when we return to find all sections of the auditorium plastered with his imperfect poetry.

Some may prefer to focus on this rather than the activities down on the stage where shepherd Corin (Geoffrey Freshwater) is gutting, skinning and gleefully beheading a dead rabbit. This seems to me to take rural reality a little far.

For once, the rustic existence of the exiled duke (Clarence Smith) and his followers very much suggests, as mentioned in the text, the ‘golden world’ of Robin Hood and his merry men. Why, there are even bows and arrows!

One feels that he might not be too keen to swap this idyllic life for a starchy court of the sort ruled over by his usurping brother (Sandy Neilson), even on days when the world-weary Jaques (Forbes Masson) is in full melancholy flow.

Touchstone, Jaques’s rival in acidulous drollery, is portrayed by Richard Katz as if lately come from a lunatic asylum, still in his straitjacket, with superlong shoes his only mark of the clown. A knowing speaker of uncomfortable truths, he perhaps represents the idea that the mad possess a special type of sanity.

In terms of wit both men are outgunned by Rosalind, to whom the play (and a quarter of its words) truly belongs. Katy Stevens presents this wonderful woman magnificently. Transformed in moustachioed Laughing Cavalier style, she makes a most convincing Ganymede. Her itching desire for bit-of-rough Orlando (pictured with her above) proves she is a woman of passion as well as intellect.

A second strong offering (after The Winter's Tale) for the RSC's new 44-strong ensemble, As You Like It continues until October 3. Box office: 0844 800 1110 (