Review by Daz Gale
It was the Instagram post that got everyone talking, which turned into the trial that got tongues wagging and now it has made its way to the West End. From what was supposed to be a one night only show last year, the show now brilliantly dubbed “The Scousetrap” (due to its location next door to The Mousetrap) is on the West End in its own home for the next 6 weeks. What could I possibly be talking about? It’s…..…. Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. But would this perhaps surprising stage adaptation do it justice?
The Wagatha Christie trial was caused by a tweet Coleen Rooney posted, identifying Rebekah Vardy as the person responsible for selling stories about her to The Sun newspaper. Rooney was dubbed Wagatha Christie having solved the case by laying a trap for Vardy which she fell for. Vardy denied these allegations and started libel proceedings against Rooney – what followed was the trial of the century… until Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent one at least.
This play takes the transcript from the court to create a completely verbatim piece of theatre… almost. Adapted by Liv Hennessy, we are also treated to the addition of two correspondents reporting on the goings in inside the court. However, the fact that all of Vardy and Rooneys lines are spoken verbatim is remarkable. Most plays in the West End would kill for lines as iconic and hilarious as some of the ones uttered throughout this play of two halves.
It's Rebekah Vardy’s account that really gets the audience hooked in a much stronger first act. While act two isn’t without its moments, the absurdity of Rebekah’s responses make far more entertaining viewing… even with the appearance of Wayne Rooney. It almost felt like the show peaked too soon and was very much a game of two halves – though both were played fantastically, it wasn’t as even as I would have liked. It almost makes me wonder if this show might have benefited better from a non-linear approach shooting back and forth between both WAGs throughout both acts.
Lisa Spirlings direction brilliantly recreates the action inside the court with the inspired touch of treating the WAGs accounts like a football game, beautifully complemented by Polly Sullivans set design transforming a courtroom into a football pitch. One of the smartest choices in the show is during the womens testimonies when they are asked about moments from the past, usually text messages. The women transform into these moments effortlessly creating a sudden juxtaposition from the serious nature of the cast. The immediate nature of the back and forth from past to present (the trial) are among the funniest moments of the show and a true testament to the understanding of how to maximise a story such as this to give the most entertainment.
Whether you are familiar with the trial, the concept of WAGs or football in itself (I believe there are balls involved but that’s as far as my knowledge of the game extends) this is a fantastically accessible recreation for everybody. You don’t need to know the mannerisms of Rebekah Vardy, Coleen Rooney or their husbands to know the performances by the cast are world class.
Lucy May Barker steals the absolute show as Rebekah Vardy. She (spoiler alert) may not win the case but she definitely wins the story with a truly phenomenal performance, showing both sides to Rebekah – the brash one responsible for selling the stories and the one denying everything in court. Her delivery of these now iconic lines are perfect in a masterclass performance. Laura Dos Santos encompasses Coleen Rooney perfectly. While she has less to do in the show by comparison, her constant presence demands attention with detail to mannerisms and reactions creating a more nuanced but exceptional performance.
Jonnie Broadbent and Tom Turner give great performances as Hugh Tomlinson QC and David Sherborne, arguing the cases for both women in a convincing performance that only reminds you this isn’t a real courtroom when they try to score goals after each key point. Verna Vyas has a small but crucial role as Mrs Justice Steyn which she plays in winning manner.
The two correspondents, Halema Hussain and Nathan McMullen are fantastic with their rapport to each other, and both get a time to shine as they double as other roles – Halema in a standout turn as Caroline Watt and Nathan truly magnificent as both Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy. The inclusion of these two adds a real dynamic to the case which elevates the story and is the key to its success translating to the stage.
When Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial was first announced, I had low expectations for it. It felt like there wouldn’t be enough in this to sustain a show and wouldn’t leave audiences gripped. I am happy to admit when I am wrong and in this case I am definitely guilty of that. This play really is an unexpected delight – sensational in its approach thanks to the often absurdity of the claims and in particular Vardy’s responses, it translates to the stage effortlessly thanks to inspired direction and ingenious additions to the writing in the style of the correspondents. Brought to life by a truly remarkable cast, what has been created has ended up being something incredibly special. The verdict is in. It’s……. a hit.
Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial plays at the Ambassadors Theatre until 20th May. It then embarks on a UK tour until 17th June with dates and tickets available here.
Photos by Pamela Raith