VARDY V ROONEY: The Wagatha Christie Trial

Lucy May Barker (Rebekah Vardy) and Laura Dos Santos (Coleen Rooney) in Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. Photography: Pamela Raith

Let me state at the start that I have no, nor have I ever had, any interest in football. It may stem from always being the last boy to be chosen for a team, or the fact that in Lancashire it was always cold and wet, but in truth I just never saw the point of kicking a ball around. So it follows that I have never been less interested in the lives of football players and less so their wives and girlfriends, the term WAGS I know, but what they do, well nothing beyond their penchant for fake tans and designer clothes.

That was until a few weeks back when I was invited to see Vardy V Rooney and I enjoyed it so much that last night I returned to see it again. The clue should have been in the words Wagatha Christie, because I do love a good crime story and in particular a courtroom procedural, and that is exactly what this is. And a very good one it is too, partly due to the brilliantly conceived format, an adaption and extension of the actual trial courtroom transcript by Liv Hennessy and the pitch perfect, forgive me, direction of Lisa Spirling.

The trial was basically about privacy, Rooney knew she was being targeted by someone who was monetising their association, it was never a friendship, by selling personal stories to The Sun Newspaper. Rooney cunningly works out how to track down and trap the culprit but in the High Court can she win?

The drama is created in the form of a game of two halves, 45 minutes each way. The set morphs a stylised courtroom with a football pitch and in the courtroom we see Vardy and Rooney, their legal representatives and a judge. On the side lines there are two soccer pundits who also take on any other characters as required and along the way clarify any legal matters.

The judge sits in judgement and blows a whistle, they’re off.

Halema Hussain (Pundit) and Nathan McMullen (Pundit) in Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. Photography: Pamela Raith

Lucy May Barker (Rebekah Vardy), Verna Vyas (Mrs Justice Steyn), Jonnie Broadbent (Hugh Tomlinson QC), and Laura Dos Santos (Coleen Rooney) in Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. Photography: Pamela Raith

Lucy May Barker (Rebekah Vardy) and Tom Turner (David Sherborne) in Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. Photography: Pamela Raith

Vardy is played by Lucy May Barker, icy cold, scraped back hair, dark glasses and sharp suits the very picture of dignity. it’s a stellar performance, clipped tones, assured and perfect in every sense. Laura Dos Santos delivers Rooney with the disarming charm of the ordinary working class girl wronged, the accent is spot on, the characterisation I have since discovered is equally sharp, she simply inhabits the character.

Now there is little doubt that this plays out as a comedy, but every word is a direct lift from the trial transcript so neither of them deliver gags, they are playing straight and both do it so so well.

Rooney’s legal is David Sherbourne played with suave sophistication, and not without recognising the comic content of both Rooney and Vardy’s words, by Tom Turner. His statuesque presence and composure is perfectly balanced by the occasional wry smile and dramatic pause.

Vardy is represented by Hugh Tomlinson QC, played by Johnnie Broadbent. Tomlinson is far more old school, solid but no less incisive and Broadbent delivers just that. There are many moments when you can sense that both the legals think that the whole things is a spurious waste of both time and money, a couple of WAGS, a term that Rooney repeatedly corrects, a stupid bitchy spat, a spat that has gone way to far.

Our pundits lead us through the case, pausing to commentate from time to time and also playing the parts of absentee and present witnesses. Halema Hussain is marvellous as a footy commentator but readily morphs into Harpreet Robertson and brilliantly becomes Caroline Watt.

Nathan McMullen looks every inch the sideline commentator and then with a change of stance and a raise in pitch is instantly and very comically Wayne Rooney and later Jamie Vardy, and as each he probably has the most recognisably comedic moments in the whole.

Verna Vyas is Mrs Justice Steyn sitting attentively, or is she, over proceedings. She has the least to say but in the end delivers her verdict.

I didn’t come away a football fan or a lover of WAGS but I did come away wondering what Liv Hennessy will deliver next because this is one hell of a funny evening of inventive theatre.

Andrew Kay

15 June

Theatre Royal Brighton

[rating 4/5]

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