More than four months after cancelling Virginia Gay’s Cyranoalmost before it had so tantalisingly begun, MTC returns after another couple of lockdowns with a feel-good classic. As You Like Itincludes Shakespeare’s favourite comic tropes: a cross-dressing heroine, a wickedly wise fool, unpolished common folk and romantic muddles. Director Simon Phillips chooses to downplay their potential for big laughs, however, preferring an almost contemplative approach. In contrast, this production’s design is stunning.

Melbourne Theatre Company's As You Like It

Anyone who saw MTC’s previous Shakespeare production probably can’t help but make comparisons between the two. Also directed by Phillips, Twelfth Nightopened almost three years ago to the day, but was a thing of such joy, energy and beauty that it remains vivid in my mind at least. The physical humour, sight gags and vocal playfulness crucial to its success are much reduced in As You Like It, which pursues a more subtle, thoughtful style that charms but rarely delights or inspires laughter.

In fairness, this play...