‘Vardy v Rooney’ will play Tuesdays only at Wyndham’s Theatre until January. In April it transfers to the Ambassadors Theatre for a ‘normal’ run.
The world can be divided into two groups: those who remember where they were on October 9 2019 and those who were living under a rock. For the benefit of you rock-dwellers, October 9 was the day Coleen Rooney posted an explosive revelation on her social media channels. Unbeknownst to her millions of followers, even her family and friends, Rooney had quietly been conducting an investigation into who from her inner circle had been leaking stories about her and her family to The Sun newspaper. The infamous ‘reveal post’ ended with the now iconic line ‘It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account’.
Playing on Tuesday at Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End for the next couple of months, ‘Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial’ is a pretty faithful stage retelling of the 2022 libel case that followed, as Vardy took Rooney to court to prove her innocence. Fans of a courtroom drama have a lot to be excited about as Lisa Spirling’s production proudly announces that all dialogue delivered from the witness stand is taken directly from the court transcripts and indeed it does write itself (albeit with some judicious pruning from editor Liv Hennessy).
There is no need for additional funny quips as the testimony given by Lucy May Barker’s Vardy is funnier than anything any writer could fathom. Under cross-examination at one point, she begins ‘If I’m being honest’ to which David Sherborne, QC remarks ‘I would hope you are being honest, since you’re in the witness box in the high court’. A thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters couldn’t write dialogue like this.
Tom Turner and Jonathan Broadbent are pitch-perfect as the sneering QCs (Broadbent’s delivery of the line ‘Someone on the internet called my client an “evil rat-faced bitch”!’ will stay with me for ever) while Laura Dos Santo’s Rooney is measured, human and just the right amount of smug. Lucy May Barker’s portrayal of Vardy carries the first half, doing a lot with very little dialogue.
This commitment to the transcripts necessitates the need for an explanation as to what the hell’s going on at certain points: two football pundits are on hand to provide context to the finer points of libel law. While it’s a funny device, their constant interruptions throw off the rhythm of the plot in one of the show’s few weak points. The football theme is continued via Polly Sullivan’s football-pitch set – it’s a pretty simple idea, but not bad considering this play only has the theatre one night a week.
Like all good theatre, ‘Wagatha Christie’ is about more than meets the eye. This is a show about what privacy means in the twenty-first-century world of social media. It’s about jealousy, money and the uneasy relationship between the British press and celebrities. It’s also about class and how football is one of the few avenues available for working-class people to transcend their humble beginnings to find themselves in the rarefied world of the super-rich and the intense scrutiny that comes with it.
It takes a bit of time to find its feet, but once it hits its stride, ‘Wagatha Christie’ is a gripping retelling of what went down in court that week. It will leave you lamenting that all UK court cases are not publicly televised: this one would have pulled in bigger audiences than all of Wayne Rooney’s World Cup appearances combined.