Unless you haven’t been on the internet, picked up a newspaper, or watched the news in the last four years; you’ll most certainly have heard of the ‘Wagatha Christie’ saga, which culminated last year in a court trial. With the ink on the Judge’s decision barely dry, adapter Liv Hennessy and director Lisa Spirling, set about turning the transcripts into a stage play. Vardy V Rooney The Wagatha Christie Trial ran for a handful of performances at the Wyndham’s and now returns to the West End for a six week run at The Ambassadors before heading out on tour.
Coleen Rooney suspected someone close to her was selling stories to the Sun newspaper, so began a sting operation, posting false stories on her private Instagram account and limiting who was able to view them. When those same stories started appearing in the newspaper, Rooney believed she had all the evidence she needed. Like a modern-day Miss Marple, gathering the suspects in the drawing room, Rooney laid out her evidence in a series of social media posts, which concluded with the now infamous ‘It’s ………Rebekah Vardy’s account.’
Fellow WAG Vardy responded by launching libel action against Rooney, and it was this that resulted in the whole affair garnering even more media attention as the pair faced off in court. In Vardy V Rooney The Wagatha Christie Trial, seven days of testimony are reduced down to ‘ninety minutes plus extra time’ nicely condensing the key points into a hugely enjoyable evening of theatre.
On Polly Sullivan’s set, where a football pitch and courtroom are combined, the curated transcripts are performed verbatim. Now, that may not sound all that exciting, but in a case of truth being stranger than fiction, some of the words actually spoken would never even have occurred to a playwright.
Because libel law is a little tricky, and we’re missing days of testimony, the play features two pundits intervening with pun packed commentary. Halema Hussain and Nathan McMullen are the pundits as well as taking on some supporting roles, McMullen enjoying a moment in the spotlight as Wayne Rooney. At first it feels like these interruptions might disrupt the flow, but they do end up helping the storytelling aspects immeasurably.
Like any good courtroom drama, this is a game of two halves. In the first David Sherborne (Tom Turner) interrogates Rebekah Vardy. Lucy May Barker is exceptional here, taking the stand with undiluted petulance, while bursting to life as WhatsApp and social media messages are re-enacted. The words are of course Vardy’s, but the production paints an extra layer on top, inviting the audience to laugh at the absurdity of some of the courtroom antics.
Then it’s the turn of Hugh Tomlinson QC (Jonnie Broadbent) to pick apart Rooney’s account of events. Arguably the second act isn’t as funny as the first, but through Laura Dos Santos’ portrayal of Rooney, we start to think about the concepts of ‘celebrity’ and ‘privacy’.
Despite already knowing the story, and knowing what the end result is, Vardy V Rooney The Wagatha Christie Trial is terrifically gripping. As we bounce back and forth between all the players, the stakes never seemed higher, and every time an own goal is scored, the audience get to feel just a twinge of satisfaction.
The original run was pulled together in haste, I don’t know if changes have been made with the luxury of time, but it certainly feels like a slick production. Vardy V Rooney also remains true to actual events, while subtly asking questions about how the social media age affects privacy for us all. There’s plenty to enjoy in this fascinating real-life drama, while Lucy May Barker and Laura Dos Santos promote this whodunnit to the premier league.