Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial - Wyndham's Theatre
Invariably, friends and acquaintances want to know if I’m looking forward to seeing any shows in the near future. There’s one that provoked more reactions than any other – Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. Very few people in Britain haven’t at least heard about Vardy v Rooney. But to fork out money to see parts of it re-enacted on stage? The thought of it was enough to elicit (in no particular order) intrigue, horror, amazement, envy, snobbery, ridicule, laughter and dismissiveness. There was nothing in the way of nonchalance or indifference.
The courtroom scenes make use of verbatim remarks from the transcripts of the seven day trial, and on balance, particularly given some of the banal responses given during cross-examination, it does remarkably well to maintain interest. Two pundits, played by Sharan Phull and Nathan McMullen, who also double up as witnesses (McMullen does a sterling job as Wayne Rooney), frequently interrupt proceedings to give context to what exactly is being spoken about or to speed things along, or sometimes both. There was some over-explanation on occasion, but that’s hardly problematic, because you don’t need to know a thing about the trial before seeing the show, and having the salient points made crystal clear is far better than the alternative!
Rebekah Vardy (Lucy May Barker) is portrayed as someone who valiantly sticks to her guns, in the broad sense that she consistently flatly denied she did anything wrong. But as Mrs Justice Steyn (Charlotte Randle) eventually ruled, her evidence was in itself inconsistent, and a failure to acknowledge provable facts was a significant contributory factor in Vardy losing her case against Coleen Rooney (Laura Dos Santos, whose Liverpudlian accent sounded authentic to me). The rather blunt answers from both parties were refreshing in some ways, a stark contrast to the bluster and weasel words of the political elite. For instance, when asked why she didn’t pursue a particular course of action, Rooney replied that she didn’t want to. It sounds vacuous but she could hardly be accused of lying under oath.
Effectively, it’s a summary of an entire trial. Briskly paced, the audience hears miscellaneous WhatsApp messages spoken by the characters who wrote them. (Barker finds herself still reading out ‘dot, dot, dot’ in the modern equivalent of a diary entry: she used to play Sophie Sheridan in the West End production of Mamma Mia!, and there have been two cast changes and a pandemic since then.) Indicative of the different worlds in which lawyers and wags operate, Vardy didn’t know what ‘Davy Jones’ locker’ meant, while David Sherborne (Tom Turner), Rooney’s lawyer, had to have ‘FFS’ explained to him: Vardy hesitated, before the judge intervened to confirm it was okay to clarify the acronym in court. Hugh Tomlinson QC (Jonathan Broadbent), Vardy’s lawyer, is equally adept at delivering lines in such a way that elicits laughter from the audience: “Someone on the internet called my client an ‘evil rat faced bitch’!” he exclaims. Oof. But also LOL. Sherborne, for his part, interrupts a response from Vardy that started with, “If I’m being honest…” with a riposte about that being just as well, given she’s in the witness box at the High Court.
It is worth seeing to witness the sort of dialogue that actually went on in court. It’s the sort of stuff that needs to be seen to be believed. As a fellow theatregoer remarked afterwards, it’s part of living history. It’s also very, very funny. And that’s coming from someone who saw Jack Whitehall, Alan Carr, Russell Howard and Seann Walsh (amongst others) perform at a comedy gig the previous evening.