Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at Ambassadors Theatre
Mid-run at Wyndham’s Theatre, the producers of Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial clearly struck while the iron was hot and announced a further six-week run at Ambassadors Theatre followed by a UK tour.
Many reviews of the earlier production observed the pantomimic reactions received by Lucy May Barker and Laura Dos Santos (playing Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney respectively) as they entered Polly Sullivan’s tawdry representation of the Old Bailey, with its football-pitch floor. While the leading actors perform with the same level of impressive commitment as they did originally, the atmosphere is less fervid on press night at the Ambassadors. Perhaps it is a show that relied on the Wagatha Christie zeitgeist of the early 2020s? Not entirely – it still generates plenty of humour, though it is slightly discomfiting when director Lisa Spirling and playwright Liv Hennessey occasionally lean on snobby preconceptions of “WAGs” for cheap laughs, such as Rooney’s thick Liverpudlian pronunciation of “notebook” or Vardy’s sincere ignorance of Davy Jones’s Locker that’s sent up as unadulterated dopiness.
Misguided comedy aside, Hennessey deftly distils the seven-day libel trial to the length of a football match with VAR-impacted extra time. The dramatic sticking point, though, proves to be the retelling of the trial by two pun-a-minute football pundits, which cheapens the gravity of many sensitive issues that lie at the heart of the case. Therefore, as soon as compelling aspects are under the theatrical spotlight – such as the persistent hounding of the Rooneys by The Sun newspaper (a publication notorious for its seeming anti-Liverpudlian sentiment) or the grotesque amorality of Vardy in seeking to profit from whatever bavardage the right-wing press were keen to publish – they are undercut by grating interruption from the pundits or a crass tableau where the ensemble freeze in post-goal celebration.
Ultimately, the show is at its best when it sticks to being a courtroom drama. At those moments, it bristles with tension as Barker and Dos Santos are shrewdly interrogated by the delightful pairing of Tom Turner’s David Sherborne and Jonnie Broadbent’s Hugh Tomlinson QC. Thankfully, the talents of the cast shine through when the script centres around this. Even multi-roling pundits Halema Hussain and Nathan McMullen are more lustrous when they play characters directly involved in the court case.
Despite its effective elements, though, Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial‘s gimmicky remainder retains the feeling that it has failed to score.
Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial is at Ambassadors Theatre from 6th April until 20th May 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: