Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial- Ambassadors Theatre
Its……… A Hit!
A courtroom drama like no other, Liv Hennessy’s adaption of the scandalous trial is equally thrilling as it is jarring. The verbatim text grounding us in a bizarre reality that plays out more like a school detention than a defamation hearing at the High Court. Kept in play through court-side punditry, Vardy v Rooney is engaging and wild with secrets spilling out from both sides but leaving an unnerving aftertaste as the play hints towards the morality of such high-profile cases, especially those that outgrow the confines of the court.
Wealth and influence are on full display in this production, the lid being somewhat lifted, on the lifestyles of ‘WAGs’ (wives and girlfriends of high-profile sportsmen) and their families but equally the balance they attempt to strike between utilising their celebrity status to earn an income and somehow seek to maintain some semblance of privacy. This particular case saw Colleen Rooney undertake her own investigation after information from her private Instagram was consistently leaked to the Sun Newspaper. Her conclusion being announced in the now infamous revel post that set the internet ablaze, “It’s……..Rebekah Vardy's account.” Vardy denied all knowledge and instructed lawyers to bring a defamation case against Mrs Rooney and that seven day trial is now condensed into two hours for us to experience ourselves.
Leading Rooney’s defence is the cooly confident David Sherborne (Tom Turner), who for the majority of the first half guides us through the evidence against Mrs Vardy. WhatsApps, screenshots and testimony form a riveting stream of information that at times is unexpectedly brash and damning against Vardy as she converses with her agent. Lucy May Barker is mighty as the claimant Vardy. Hidden behind the large sunglasses when she first enters the courtroom, her poise screams of someone who blindly believes they are in the right, yet that shield steadily crumbles as she attempts to bat away weighty evidence. Against Tom Turner’s Sherborne the two spar, Sherborne always the one with the upper hand.
Laura Dos Santos as Coleen Rooney, equipped with her heavy Liverpudlian accent, impressively recounts the trauma of her personal life being passed onto the media, of being betrayed by someone she trusted. Santos nicely conveys the struggle, but equally, the fear as some of her evidence risks unravelling by Vardy’s team helmed by capable Hugh Tomlinson QC (Jonnie Broadbent). Quality punditry from Halema Hussain and Nathan McMullen nicely frames the proceedings, ensuring that we are all up to speed with the events and the terminology, with each stepping in to play other characters mentioned in the evidence or witnesses taking the stand.
Vardy v Rooney is frankly farcical at times, with Lisa Spirling’s direction emphasising the often ludicrous responses for comedic effect. The childish nature of such a high-profile case is extraordinary but the piece alludes to themes much darker. The threats and abuse directed, spurred on by online speculation, towards Rebekah Vardy, were horrific, with each of the women’s secrets being dragged out for all to hear. There were no winners here. The notion that this story is now the premise of a West End production is somewhat unsettling. Once we have finished laughing at the misery of out-of-touch celebrities, we are left to ponder the effect of social media and the court of public opinion and how that in turn has the power to rightly or wrongly disrupt the lives of real people. Vardy v Rooney is an exhilarating, modern drama that is sure to captivate wherever it goes.
Running at London Ambassadors Theatre until 20 May - Tickets
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
26 – 27 May 2023
28 May 2023
30 – 31 May 2023
Gaiety Theatre Dublin
5 - 7 June 2023
The Lowry, Salford
9-11 June 2023
Brighton Theatre Royal
15 – 17 June 2023
Photography - Pamela Raith