While the rest of London theatre offers pantomimes and festively-themed shows to mark the Christmas season, the Almeida takes a distinctly different approach with its modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, set against the backdrop of Las Vegas’ seedy glamour. Director Rupert Goold’s relocation of the play to this lavish and tacky world, obsessed with accumulating wealth simply for the sake of it, makes perfect sense: his conceptual framework highlights Shakespeare’s timeless themes whilst telling the story afresh with pace and verve.

Goold’s bold and colourful interpretation is brimming with clever ideas and, for its zippy cuts from scene to scene, drawling American accents, and the perfectly coiffed and preened cast, pays homage to the flash and gusto of Baz Luhrman’s reworking of Romeo and Juliet. Certainly, part of the fun of Goold’s Merchant of Venice is marvelling at the ingenuity with which he has transposed a number of scenes to fit them neatly into this new world. Among the highlights was seeing Portia (Susannah Fielding), flanked by Nerissa (Emily Plumtree) and Jessica (Caroline Martin), all three moodily preening and headbanging along to Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – so well-timed and executed in this production, as well as incredibly humorous for being so noticeably at odds with what Shakespeare would ever have imagined as a soundtrack to his work.

The production is marked by outstanding performances, from Ian McDiarmid’s Shylock to Fielding’s Portia and all in between. Indeed, there are numerous moments of genius when it comes to the characterisation of the latter: a huge blonde wig-wearing Barbie of big smiles and bleached teeth, who, underneath this tacky and artificial exterior proves she has the intelligence to match any man. Fielding truly makes the famous court scene her own for the eloquence and gravitas she brings to the arguments, balanced perfectly with some brilliant Legally Blonde-like moments.

This wonderfully tacky retelling does at times marvel in the genius of its own ideas, occasionally foregrounding style over substance (past simply making its point), which does eclipse the story of The Merchant of Venice (although it can undeniably hold up without any pomp and circumstance). And ultimately, since the world in which Shakespeare wrote differs so drastically from this, not every logistical problem this translation presents gets satisfyingly solved, where some moments feel slightly ‘square peg, round hole’.

Nonetheless, these are minor quibbles where overall this bold, bright and accomplished production might be just the makeover Shakespeare needs to appeal to younger, edgier, non-regular theatre-going audiences, as well as injecting some fresh life into the play for those who know it well.

The Merchant of Venice is playing at the Almeida Theatre until 14 February 2015. For more information and tickets, see the Almeida Theatre’s website. Photo by Ellie Kurtzz.