It's all Elvis impersonators, slot machines and dancing girls in Rupert Goold's lively and colourful production of The Merchant of Venice. He originally directed this production for the RSC in Stratford in 2011 but with a few staging adjustments to fit onto the trimmer Almeida stage and some new cast members it arrives in London for a two and a bit month run.
The Stratford production had me conflicted. On the one hand there are some achingly clever devices and interpretations but on the other the 'in your face' tone and American accents made it difficult for a Merchant novice, as I was, to understand what was going on. I hoped this second viewing, now being more familiar with the story, would open up the play a bit more.
Ian McDiarmid steps into Patrick Stewart's shoes as Shylock the Jewish money lender with a macabre idea for a bond on a loan to Antonio (Scott Handy) and his is initially a much more playful Shylock who relishes what he thinks is a clever deal.
Susannah Fielding and Emily Plumtree return as the rich single lady Portia and her maid Nerissa and it is the treatment of their story which remains the highlight for me. Portia's father has left any potential suitors, all of whom have to be rich, with a choice of three boxes to open. One box has a picture of Portia in it to indicate they have chosen correctly and each box has an inscription in order to help them to decide which is the correct one. Goold uses a TV game show format, a cross between Deal or No Deal and Blind Date.