Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial

Wagatha Christie scores! A winning blend of humour, satire and reality

As an avid fan of the noughties TV show Footballers’ Wives, I was both excited and intrigued to see how the real-life footballers’ wives would be interpreted on stage alongside the highly publicised and topic libel trial that took the media by storm between 2019 and 2022.

The show, adapted by Liv Hennessy for the stage, is playing a limited run at The Lowry in Salford this weekend following a sold-out run-in London’s West End. The script, which uses High Court transcripts edited from the seven-day trial, takes us on a whirlwind which needs to be seen to be believed.

On arrival, the set designed by Polly Sullivan, is a courtroom but with a difference. A symmetrical set of two tables and chairs with a WAG touch – transparent acrylic - which adds a nice touch to the contrasting coat of arms of the UK on the backdrop to set the scene of the High Court. The floor of the courtroom is designed as astroturf, just one of the stylistic themes to draw us back to football. This is well accompanied with a soundscape of crowds at a football match playing out to the auditorium, which side will you take?

The play opens with Halema Hussain and Nathan McMullen taking the stage and introduced as pundits. They additionally take on other roles in the play, explaining legal jargon and accelerating the narrative. A standout scene was McMullen taking the part of both the wives husbands, Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy. His physical comedy and changing accents had the audience laughing out loud which was light relief from the more serious tones of Act 2.

Our two leading ladies are Lucy May Barker and Laura Dos Santos playing Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney respectively. There is a heavy distinction in the styling (also by Polly Sullivan), between the two protagonists which are true to the outfits worn by the two wives in courtroom appearances. Vardy’s styling being elegant and typical of what we see as a WAG in the media with large sunglasses and designer handbag, with Rooney’s costume more relaxed with an effortless dress and a plastic medical boot (Rooney had a broken foot during the trial).

Barker has impeccable comic timing and with merely a change in facial expression or how she articulates certain lines puts the audience on her side. This is well contrasted with Dos Santos who has Rooney’s accent to a tee and although does not have a prominent role in the first act, gives us an insight into her character’s thoughts with her expressions. 

The play is highly entertaining with relatable moments shown in flashbacks to WhatsApp messages, shown expertly by the cast stepping in and out of the scene. 

Although this show has many laugh-out-loud moments, we are reminded in the show’s programme that social media, celebrity and privacy don’t always sit comfortably and that there is a grey area regarding the balance of a celebrity’s right to privacy in UK law.

The show is heavily stylised throughout as though we were spectators at a football match. Examples being when the barristers are questioning the witness, they freeze frame into scoring a goal, which gives an effective visual. My personal favourite was during the curtain call, the cast draw together to build a free kick wall. This is an especially poignant curtain call with ‘The Fear’ by Lily Allen providing the bow off.

Overall, the play directed by Lisa Spirling is a winning blend of humour and satire but with some important points regarding social media, privacy and celebrity that remain in your mind after leaving the theatre.

Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial plays at The Lowry Salford until the 10th June 2023.  Tickets available here: https://thelowry.com/whats-on/vardy-v-rooney-the-wagatha-christie-trial/

Review written by Lee Gregory

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